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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - October 27, 2011

From: Spring Hill, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Pollinators, Butterfly Gardens
Title: Butterfly egg kit from Spring Hill FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Could you please tell me all native plant(s) I can buy for my Sons Painted Lady Butterfly kit (eggs are going to hatch soon)and I don't know what to buy for the baby caterpillars to eat. I contacted the company directly and was told they didn't know and once they hatch to peacefully put them to rest by placing in the refrigerator, :( I live in Spring Hill, Florida. Thank You for all your help.

ANSWER:

Unortunately, we are afraid your son's baby caterpillars never had a chance. Plants you could purchase probably would not be anywhere close to hosting baby caterpillars. On the other hand, every hungry bird in the county would have their eyes (and beaks) on the little critters the minute they were deposited there. It is somewhat heartless that the manufacturer of the kit you purchased did not give you instructions on what to do with the eggs that hatched, and when you inquired, said just to kill them humanely.

From our own Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, here is information from our on-site Insectary. As you will see, we do not begin with butterfly eggs, but with larvae gathered by volunteers and staff in the area. Stalks of the proper feeding plants are also gathered and placed in jars in a protected building with screened windows so that visitors to the Center can watch as the larvae develop and become pupae. At that point, they are removed from the Insectary and placed in a screened box (again, protecting them from predators) until they hatch into butterflies and are set free in our Butterfly Garden, which is planted with butterfly-attracting plants native to Central Texas.

For future reference, we suggest you go to the BAMONA (Butterflies and Moths of North America) website, where you can learn about cultivating butterflies which are not only beautiful but are valuable pollinators. From Insectlorepedia, here is lots of information about the lifecycle of the Painted Butterfly, and its preferred diet. 

 

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