Hands-On Science: Raising Butterflies

No matter how old you are, butterflies are one of those animals that can take your breath away. Who hasn’t stood still when around them, hoping that one would land on you so you could see them close up?

These evasive creatures are so beautiful, and undergo one of the most amazing metamorphoses of any animal. Kids love caterpillars and butterflies, but rarely get the chance to see this change.

Using a live butterfly garden during a science lesson gives the opportunity for close observation.

Hands-On Science: Raising Butterflies Education PossibleThis post contains affiliate links.

My girls received a mesh tote from Insect Lore one Christmas. Along with the tote, they received a card to send in when they were ready for the caterpillars. They don’t come with the initial purchase because the weather has to be warm enough for the butterflies to survive when they emerge.

Once we received our cup of caterpillars, it was time for hands-on science!

Hands-On Science: Raising Butterflies Education Possible

This Butterfly Study printable for middle school will help you chart the life cycle of your caterpillars & butterflies as well as guide your research.

*The free promotion for this has expired, please enjoy this product at a great low price.

Daily Observation

We had never been close to these animals for such a long time before and we enjoyed watching them eat and grow. Every day the girls charted their growth and some days they seemed to grow exponentially!

Once they had eaten enough and grown quite large, we watched as they attached themselves to the top of the cup within a chrysalis. Eventually we saw the chrysalises begin to wiggle and we knew that it was almost time for them to emerge.

Hands-On Science: Raising Butterflies Education Possible

This was our opportunity to closely watch a caterpillar’s metamorphosis. When they emerged, we had beautiful Painted Lady butterflies! We were fortunate that every caterpillar transformed into a butterfly.

We kept the tote on the school table so the kids could watch them every day. Even our cats were riveted by these fluttering creatures.

hands on science raising butterflies Education Possible

One of the butterflies came out with shriveled wings, which my kids named “Squiggy.” This provided the perfect opportunity for us to do further research about why his wings were different and what that meant for his survival. They took special care of him and to this day they still talk about that butterfly.

One of our favorite things to sit and watch was feeding time. It was fascinating watching the proboscis dart in and out of the oranges we gave them.

Finally, it was release day, which was definitely bittersweet. On the one hand, we were proud that we had raised these creatures that were now ready to go off into the world. But we really loved learning about them and watching them so closely. We would miss them.

Hands-On Science: Raising Butterflies Education Possible

Additional Butterfly Activities

  • Surround yourself with living books to learn everything you can about butterflies. See how the butterflies you are raising are different from others you have seen. Don’t just compare the butterflies, but also learn about the different caterpillars as well as their chrysalises.
  • Add in some art by sketching this process in your nature journal. Take advantage of fact that you have these amazing creatures right in front of you.
  • Before you are ready to release your butterflies, take some time to create a butterfly garden in your yard and maybe they’ll stick around. Add plants that your butterflies enjoy. It’s easy to do and it’s a great way to have your yard filled with butterflies throughout the season.
  • Check out Butterflies Flutter By by Cindy West and Melissa Leach for lots of other notebooking pages and hands-on activity ideas.

Use this butterfly study when raising butterflies as a place to record your findings, find questions to spark discussions, and ideas to investigate further.

Don’t forget to grab our Butterfly Study! It’s a great tool to help guide your learning and an easy way to record all of your findings.

My kids found so much joy in each step of this science experiment. It is one of our studies that they talk about regularly and ask to do again.

Has your family ever raised butterflies?


Megan Zechman
I love homeschooling! Learning is a way of life for our family. Most days you will find us exploring our Central Florida community, having fun while learning. I am constantly looking for new and interactive ways to engage my older children.
Megan Zechman
Megan Zechman


  1. My kids love caterpillars and butterflies! They love collecting caterpillars and watching them grow and hoping they will go into a cocoon and become a butterfly. So far, we’ve only had one that actually became a butterfly, but it was truly an amazing experience! Thank you for sharing this with us! I’ve pinned this so when the kids start collecting caterpillars this summer I’ll be ready for that teachable moment with your worksheets 🙂

    • That sounds like a lot of fun Missy. We’ve never collected our own caterpillars, but I know my kids would love it. I was amazed that all of our caterpillars turned into butterflies. I had already told them not to expect much (from what I had read online), so we were pleasantly surprised.

      I’m glad you will be able to use our download. Hopefully you will get to learn even more about butterflies this summer!

      Thank you for stopping by!

  2. We’ve done butterflies twice now. Once when my big kids were littler, and again last year. Unfortunately, it was too cold & windy to release ours, so we had to wait until they died off one by one. It was kind of sad, but the cool thing was that they were laying eggs before they died, so we actually got to see their little blue eggs.

    • Oh that is so sad Shecki. But like you said, at least something positive came out of it. I’ve never seen the eggs. I bet your kids were amazed. I was disappointed at first that I had to turn in the card, but it really does make a difference when you release them.

  3. I love this post and the printables are fabulous! I’d love to add this to my Ultimate Guide post in April. 🙂

    • Thank you Eva!! We would love for you to use the post for your Ultimate Guide. I agree – the printable is so cool, isn’t it? Susan did it for us.

  4. This would be an excellent project for my daughter and I. Thanks for posting I have been looking for great science projects.

    • You’re welcome Brandy! We love science here, so I’m always posting the fun stuff we’re doing. Do you use Pinterest? I find a ton of cool science project ideas there. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  5. Thank you for linking up with the Hearts for Home Blog Hop! I chose your post as one of my favorites from last week and am featuring it on this week’s post and on our Pinterest board. If you’d like an “I Was Featured” button, stop by to get the code: http://learningtable.blogspot.com/2014/03/hearts-for-home-blog-hop-57.html

    • Thank you Anne! We love your hop and we’re always so excited when we’re featured. I hope your readers enjoy the post and our story inspires some of them to raise their own butterflies.

  6. This is the best printable I have seen for butterflies!

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

    • Thank you so much Jill! Susan did an amazing job putting my jumbled ideas into a beautiful download!!

      We will definitely be back – we love your blog hop 🙂

  7. My kids love raising butterflies. We’ve done it 2-3 times already and they are begging me to order again this year (need to do it soon before it gets too warm in SC for them to ship!).


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