The Butterfly Story

I’m excited to be back again!

We had an intense couple of months that I’d just like to recap in a little paragraph. The weather was mainly bad this summer – which isn’t a problem for me personally but paired with the lack of creativity it resulted in a few months that feel like I didn’t get much done. I left the Tattoo Atelier where I’ve worked for 3 years, I opened a new and private little space for my tattoo work and tattoos have been my main source of creativity.. otherwise I didn’t get too much done. Except combining nice outfits. My area in Germany was also hit by a bad flood – my family and I are all unharmed and we didn’t suffer any losses but it’s intense to see how entire streets and villages in the area have been destroyed. It also left us with a huge lot more work that really tired me out.

I’m excited for autumn now, a few fun things have been planned that I’m looking forward to and I would like to share my little butterfly story in this blog!!
The story won’t be over after this post but it’s on pause for a couple months… until the butterflies are ready to go on their journey!!

My boyfriend and I (mainly him) started a little garden and I was excited to have a small 2 squaremeter flower meadow in our garden. I also had the idea to raise butterflies which I once did in elementary school. I told my boyfriend about my idea but was prepared to gather all I’d need and start my butterfly kindergarten in spring 2022. Until my boyfriend called me at work and excitedly told me he’d spotted a swallowtail caterpillar in my flower meadow!

It is advised not to take caterpillars from nature!!
Which is basically what we did, but there’s a reason for that.
We have several plans for our garden and they require the meadow to be chopped down this autumn. Our plans include making sure next year we’ll be able to provide a home to many insects but that requires preparation. I was scared we’d harm or kill the butterfly larvae in the process, so we decided to collect the caterpillar, raise it in a safe little habitat and release it once it’s completed it’s metamorphosis.

We then saw that our meadow was actually home to 3 more swallowtail caterpillars and after letting them feast on the dill in the meadow I collected them and kept them in my house.

Above is a photo of one of the caterpillars still living on one of the dill plants. It was so small then and I love the green color and it’s pretty markings.

The Habitat + Food

I repurposed an old mini greenhouse I once bought at Ikea, removed the plexiglass sides and stuck fly screen to it so there’d be good ventilation. I took a big and a small mason jar and drilled a few holes into the alu lids, the holes had to be big enough for plant stalks to fit through but I wanted them small enough so no caterpillar would fall into the water. I drilled about 5 holes into both lids, filled the jars with water and closed them.
I placed kitchen paper towels on the floor of my habitat and placed the two mason jars on top. The paper towels are quite important, they don’t just keep the habitat clean but they also provide a textured surface for the insects to crawl on.
I added a couple dry branches that fit into the habitat so the caterpillars would have something to crawl and pupate on. And lastly I added Dill stalks, sticking them through the holes in the mason jars so they stood up and could sip some water in order to stay fresh for longer.

!! This specific caterpillar eats things like Dill and carrot green. I added dill because that’s what I found them on. If I’d found them on carrot green I would’ve givem them that. Always good to provide the food they’re used to. Other caterpillar kinds eat different things, though !!

What happened next was that I kept them inside this habitat for about 1.5 weeks and watched them grow a lot in that time. The biggest ended up being almost as long and thick as my small finger. One day I saw a greenish liquid on the ground, it had been soaked up by the paper towels. That is liquid the caterpillar loses shortly before it starts pupating. I watched one of my caterpillars crawl restlessly around the whole habitat and the next morning I saw it had rested itself on the underside of one of the little wooden sticks, it’s hind feet firmly attached to the stick with a silk thread and a tiny silk thread tied around the middle of it’s body for support. Within 3 days all the other ones had assumed a similar position and very shortly afterward the first one had pupated.

Right now all my caterpillars have become pupae and they will remain this way until about april next year. I have done my research so I know what to do when and how. My caterpillars will mature during this winter, they are made for being outside even in cold temperatures – at least in the pupa form. I can’t keep them in my house because their biology would tell them it’s spring when it’s the middle of winter which really isn’t the right time for a swallowtail butterfly. So the will be outside my house and under close inspection. I will have to spray them with a little bit of water every 3 weeks so they don’t dry out.. except during freezing temperatures. Around march next year I will start watching extra closely and a day before the butterflies will emerge I’ll be able to see the shell of the pupa turn transparent, the wing pattern will be visible through it and a day after that the butterfly will hopefully hatch and be healthy.

Click here to watch a reel I uploaded to Instagram where you can see a time lapse video I took of the third caterpillar pupating ❤

It almost looks like a part of the branch but this was the second pupa I saw. It had formed while I was at work

Some Thoughts & Infos

  • It is advised not to touch caterpillars. I really rarely did, e.g. when one of them escaped from the habitat. Mine are harmless but there are some that you shouldn’t touch because they’re poisonous or cause allergic reactions.
  • Don’t randomly take caterpillars from nature. I cheated because I didn’t view my garden as “nature” and rather as an area we work with and where the caterpillars could unfortunately be in the way a little. I did all my research which wasn’t exactly easy, every kind requires different care and I was lucky to find a (german) tutorial on how to work with swallowtail caterpillars.
  • Caterpillars and whole butterfly kits can be bought! Makes the whole process easier and more controlled.
  • My swallowtail caterpillars are the second 2021 generation of this species. The first generation hatches in April/May, they live and become butterflies that lay eggs which turn into new caterpillars in July/August. Those live and pupate in August/September and hibernate till April/May to make the first Generation of butterflies in the next year ❤ It’s different for other kinds though!!
  • Butterflies are a fun and low effort hobby that works well for children (under instruction) but if you’d like to try it please treat the insects and mother nature with much respect ❤

I think butterflies are such a gorgeous invention of mother nature, they are like flying paintings. I’ll be excited to share the rest of their journey once it’s happened.

I hope you enjoyed this little story and didn’t find it tiresome! Any questions, feel free to ask in the comments or contact me via DM on Insta (@skyggsja) ❤
I have a few nice ideas for autumn content for my blog, autumn always inspires me to do nice, cozy and slow life things.
All the best to you and have a great weekend

x natashia

Published by natashia le fay

I'm a witch & folklore lover from the Eifel in Germany, constantly on the look for the hidden magic in this world. I love linen clothes, green academia, books & the colour green. I share my home with a man, two bunnies, two cats & the fae.

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