Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find the answers to questions regarding tips and instructions for your Clearview Butterfly Zoo kit, our shipping policy and guarantee, as well as some general information on butterflies. Don’t see the answer you are looking for? Contact our customer service and we will be glad to provide you with any additional information you may need.
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General Butterfly Information
What kind of butterflies are included?The common name is Painted Lady. The scientific name is Vanessa cardui.
What is the lifecycle of Painted Lady butterflies and how long does it take?There are four stages in the lifecycle: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult. It takes about 3-4 weeks to go from egg to adult. The caterpillar takes about 3-5 days to hatch from the egg and then will eat and molt (shed its skin) for another 10-12 days, growing hundreds of times its original size. Once it pupates (becomes a chrysalis), it will take another 8-10 days until the butterfly emerges.
How long will my butterflies live?An adult Painted Lady butterfly typically lives 3-4 weeks in the wild. With proper feeding, you can keep your butterflies for up to a week in your Butterfly Zoo.
How many times does a caterpillar shed its skin?Four times while eating and growing, and one more time while pupating.
How does a butterfly taste, smell, and hear?Unlike people, butterflies taste with their feet, and smell and hear with their antennae.
Where can I find Painted Ladies in the wild?Painted Ladies are the most widely distributed butterfly in the world, found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia. They are called “Thistle Butterflies” and can typically be found in areas where Thistle is common.
What is a host plant?
A host plant is a plant that the adult butterfly will lay an egg on and that the caterpillar can eat. Some butterfly species only have one type of host plant. However, the Painted Lady caterpillar has been known to eat many different types of plants. Some of their favorites are Milk Thistle, Malva, Common Plantain, Hollyhock, Sunflower, Mallow, and Nettle.
How do I tell if the butterfly is a male or female?The Painted Lady butterfly is a bit more difficult to identify the gender. However, there are some subtle differences. The best way to tell is by looking at the abdomen from above. The female has a larger and rounder abdomen, while the male has a straight looking abdomen.
Do Painted Ladies migrate?Painted Ladies have been known to migrate occasionally in the spring. However, this is not a common practice for this butterfly.
How fast can a Painted Lady fly?Up to 30 mph and about 100 miles per day (if the wind is right!).
What happens to the caterpillar after it becomes a chrysalis?While a chrysalis, the caterpillar’s old body liquefies and then reassembles as a butterfly.
Since a butterfly is an insect, why do I only see 4 legs instead of 6?The butterfly does indeed have 6 legs, however 2 of them are hidden and can be found tucked in near the head.
Do caterpillars have eyes?Caterpillars have 6 eyes, however, they cannot see very well.
Since a caterpillar is an insect, why do I see more than 6 legs?True to being an insect, the caterpillar only has 6 legs that are jointed to the body even though it looks like they have more. The other legs you see from the middle to the back are not jointed and are called pro-legs, which means “false legs.”
Does a caterpillar need to breath?Yes, but only a little bit. The caterpillar does not have lungs but absorbs oxygen through little holes on the sides of its body called “spiracles.”
What is an instar?An instar is the phase in between two periods of molting. For example, if the caterpillar has shed its skin once it is in the 2nd instar.
Is a butterfly a pollinator?Yes, butterflies help spread pollen from flower to flower as it collects nectar.
How does a butterfly eat?The adult butterfly has a special tube just below the eyes called a “proboscis.” The special tube remains curled up until the butterfly needs to feed. Upon landing on a nectar source, the butterfly stretches out the proboscis to suck up nectar.
Are Painted Ladies native to my area?Yes, Painted Ladies are the most widely distributed butterfly in the world. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia.
ClearView Butterfly Zoo Tips & Instructions
I would like my butterflies to emerge during a specific time frame. What ship date should I select for the caterpillars?Although we cannot guarantee a specific date for the butterflies to emerge, we can offer some suggestions. Generally, you will have adult butterflies available within 2 weeks during warmer months and 3 weeks during colder months after you receive the caterpillars. If you want to release the butterflies on a particular weekend, you would subtract 2-3 weeks (based upon temperature conditions) from that date and select the *Monday* of that week for the ship date. For example, if you wanted butterflies for Easter Sunday on April 16, 2017 (weather is cooler), you would select the caterpillar ship date of March 20, 2017. Or, if you wanted butterflies for July 15, 2017 (weather is hotter), you would select the caterpillar ship date of June 26, 2017.
Where can I find the instructions for growing live butterflies with the ClearView Butterfly Zoo?
Instructions are included with all growing kits and can be found here:
*Step 1 sheet: Download
*Step 2 sheet: Download
What conditions are best for growing caterpillars?Place your Clearview Butterfly Zoo in a location away from direct sunlight or air vent (such as air conditioner, swamp cooler, fan, etc). Room temperature (low to mid 70’s) is best for them to grow at a steady rate. If the indoor temperature greatly varies between day and night, then place a towel over the container for insulation.
Do my caterpillars need additional food or water?No, the food the caterpillars come with is all they need.
Is there enough air for the caterpillars to breath in the container?Yes, caterpillars need very little oxygen because they do not have lungs. They have “spiracles” which allow them to absorb oxygen through tiny holes in their sides.
Can I open the Caterpillar Growing House to put a wandering caterpillar back on the food?No, once the container has been closed it should not be opened again until the caterpillars have pupated. It is perfectly normal for caterpillars to sometimes wander away from their food usually to shed their skin or pupate. They will eventually go back to the food if needed.
Can my Clearview Butterfly Zoo be reused?The zoo can be reused, however all other materials must be discarded after use.
Since I already have a zoo, can I order only the caterpillars?
Yes, you may order a caterpillar refill kit by clicking here.
What is the best time of year to grow and release butterflies?Every area is different, but a rule of thumb is that if the average high temp is at least 60 degrees in your area, then it is suitable to grow and release butterflies.
Why does it look like the caterpillars are creating spider webs inside the container?This is silk that the caterpillars create to help protect them from predators. They like to create little pockets they can hide in. Also, it helps them climb up the sides of a smooth wall. Finally, they use the silk to create a “button” they can attach themselves to for pupation.
What are the little brown balls that are appearing as the caterpillar grows?This is called “frass,” which in common terms is also known as caterpillar poop. This is a good sign that your caterpillars are healthy and eating.
Why do some of my caterpillars walk away from the food and just sit there?They are most likely in the process of shedding their skin, allowing them to continue to grow. Once they shed their skin they will walk back to the food to continue eating.
Why are my large caterpillars walking all around the container as if they want to get out?They are likely in the process of searching for the best spot to pupate. They like to hang from a high spot that is away from the food.
Why are my caterpillars hanging in the shape of “J?”This means they are about to pupate and you will soon have a chrysalis.
One of my caterpillars pupated on the side of the lid instead of the top. Is this okay?Yes, as long as they are hanging so the butterfly can emerge.
All of my caterpillars have pupated except for one - what should I do?Not all caterpillars pupate at the same time, so the best thing to do is wait and let the caterpillar finish eating. However, if the caterpillar stops moving and never pupates, it is likely the caterpillar died. This is normal and also found in nature.
My caterpillars pupated and some have a little black ball attached to it – is this okay?Yes, this is the left over skin from the caterpillar. It will not affect the emergence of the butterfly.
Why do some of the chrysalises wiggle?When they first pupate, they wiggle to get out of their skin. But when you see a developed chrysalis wiggle, this is a defensive mechanism to ward off predators.
One of my chrysalises fell off and is laying in the food - what should I do?Be sure to follow the instruction sheet carefully. It is important to remove all leftover food and the food stand as this will spoil and become moldy. A plastic spoon is provided to scoop up any fallen chrysalises. The chrysalis can then be placed directly on the floor in the Butterfly Zoo (pop-up cage) where it will emerge as an adult butterfly.
My caterpillars have pupated, but there is a lot of silk webbing surrounding them - will this harm the butterfly?Yes, it is very important to use the wood stick provided to clear away the silk. The butterfly needs a clear path to break out of the chrysalis and a place to hang to dry its wings.
One of my butterflies has wrinkled wings - how did this happen?Most likely the butterfly was trapped by silk. This is why it is very important to use the wood stick provided to clear away the silk.
My first butterfly has emerged and it looks like there is blood on the floor below the butterfly - is this okay?Yes, this actually is not blood; it is meconium, the left over fluid that helped it become a butterfly.
One of my butterflies just emerged - how long does it take for the wings to dry and harden?This usually takes several hours. If it can easily move around within the container, it is ready to be transferred to the Butterfly Zoo.
How do I feed my butterflies?Butterflies like sugar! The best way for them to eat is to mix a small bottle of sugar water at the ratio of 3 teaspoons per 1 cup of water. Soak a cotton ball or wadded up paper towel in the sugar water and place on a small dish in the center of the zoo. As long as it stays moist, the butterflies will be able to feed.
Can I breed my Painted Ladies?Yes, Painted Ladies are very prolific butterflies. As long as you have at least one male and one female together in the Butterfly Zoo, they will eventually pair (about 3-5 days after emergence). But, they will need a host plant to lay eggs on.
When should I release my butterflies?It is best to release your butterflies within a week after emergence when the temperature is above 60 degrees Farenheit, and during the time of year when butterflies are naturally occurring in the wild.
Shipping Policy and Guarantee
What should I do to prepare to receive my live caterpillars?There are some important guidelines and suggestions to help make your experience successful. Please read over the following list carefully:
- Be sure to track your package and know ahead of time the approximate day of delivery to be prepared.
- Extreme heat is the #1 killer of caterpillars. Try to have your package delivered to an indoor mailbox rather than an outdoor mailbox where temperatures are extreme and can harm the caterpillars.
- If your packages are typically left at the door, please be sure that they are left in the shade (leave a note for your mail carrier) and that they are not left outside for too long.
- If none of the above are possible, you may want to consider having the caterpillars delivered to your work location or even a P.O. Box so that they can be received and kept indoors.
What carrier do you use to deliver the caterpillars?We use the U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail, which is a 1-3 day delivery window.
Can you ship to a P.O. Box?Yes, we use USPS as our carrier. However, please be sure to track you package and pick it up the day it is delivered to your P.O. Box.
When should I expect the delivery?Generally Wednesday or Thursday of each week, but no later than Friday. We ship only on Mondays and Tuesdays to ensure delivery no later than Friday regardless of your location. We are located in California so the vast majority of transit times will be 2 days after shipping. There are some distant North East and South East areas where it might take 3 days.
How will I know my caterpillars have shipped?You will receive a shipping confirmation email from the USPS automated system.
When are caterpillars available?We try to follow the natural occurrence of butterflies in the wild. So, our typical growing season is from late January through late October.
Where can you ship to?We can ship live Painted Ladies anywhere within the Continental United States. However, we cannot ship to Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Mexico, Canada or any location outside of the Continental US.
Do you charge sales tax?Only if the order is delivered within the state of California (sales tax rate is 7.25%).
What is your live butterfly guarantee?
We guarantee at least three healthy and fully developed butterflies. Although most or all of the butterflies will develop normally, occasionally there are some that simply don’t make it and may even die as caterpillars. This is normal and a part of nature. It is our desire that you have the best experience possible, so if you do not get three or more butterflies, we will send you a replacement refill kit. (We do ask that you submit a photo via email of the defective butterflies or dead caterpillars so that we can assess what might have gone wrong.)
I didn't get all the caterpillars I ordered. Why?We always ship 6 caterpillars or 12 caterpillars per kit depending on which sized kit is ordered. Occasionally, some caterpillars do not survive the shipping. Therefore we do not guarantee how many caterpillars you actually receive. However, we DO guarantee that at the end of the process you will have at least 3 healthy adult butterflies (see above)!
Do you offer a refund if all my caterpillars arrive dead?If all the caterpillars died in transit, we will replace them at no charge to you. Caterpillars arriving dead were most likely exposed to extreme heat at some point. If this happens, please consider having them delivered to a different location where they can be received and kept indoors. We will only offer one replacement set of caterpillars.
I lost my caterpillar certificate. Can I get a replacement?Unfortunately, no. Certificates to redeem caterpillars need to be treated like cash.