Butterfly nest

How to create a butterfly nest and watch the magic of caterpillars turning to butterflies from the comfort of your own home

What do you need?
  • Something to house your butterflies in – you can use a zipped butterfly house or you can create your own using a clear plastic tub with ventilated lid, or a large jar, or aquarium with some netting or muslin over the top to stop the caterpillar escaping. You can hold this in place using string or an elastic band
  • Something to collect your caterpillars in and some scissors to collect the food
  • A small jar or cup to hold the food source in water
  • Gloves for when handling nettles and caterpillars

As with any activity, they will need an adult to help them.

  • How many can do this?
  • Will suit what age?
  • How long does the fun last?

Allow your children to experience the magical transformation from hungry caterpillar to butterfly. This is also a great way to introduce children to the idea of looking after a pet.

Step 1
Step 1

To get started, head out to the great outdoors to hunt out some caterpillars. Different species of butterflies lay their eggs on certain types of plants, to guarantee a stable food source for the baby caterpillars when they hatch out. This is useful to know as it will give you some guidance of what plants to look on. It’s also useful to know as you’ll need to make sure you collect the correct food source to feed your caterpillar on. Listed below are several popular butterfly species and the host plants that their caterpillars eat. As you’ll see from the list below, nettles are one of caterpillar’s favorite food source, but make sure everyone is wearing gloves when looking, and that children are accompanied at all times.

  • Painted Lady - Thistles, Mallows and Nettles
  • Large Tortoiseshell – Willows, Poplars and Birch
  • Small Copper – Dock leaves
  • Peacock – Nettles and Hops
  • Red Admiral – Nettles and hops
  • Holly Blue – Holly and Ivy
  • Small White – Cabbages, Nasturtium, Hedge Mustard and Garlic Mustard

Step 2
Step 2

When you find your caterpillar you need to collect him into the container - this should be a job for grown-ups. There are a small number of British caterpillars that are poisonous so you should never touch them directly. Carefully collect the caterpillar by snipping off the leaf or the twig that the caterpillar is on and put this into your collection tub.

Step 3

It’s hugely important to identify the plant that the caterpillar is eating as you will need to give it fresh food everyday. When you collect the caterpillar, collect that days feed.

Step 4

Next take your caterpillar home and get the children to carefully transfer it into it’s new home without touching it. Put a small amount of water in a small jar or cup, and put the caterpillar’s food in the jar to help keep it fresh. Cover the container with a fine net or a muslin and position somewhere out of direct sunlight.

Step 5

You’ll need to give the caterpillar fresh food every day and clear out any droppings to ensure the container stays hygienic. This is a great way to teach children the basics of looking after a pet.

Step 3
Step 6

Other than that it’s time to sit back and wait for the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly or even moth take place. Once the butterfly or moth hatches out, open its container and set it free.