Caterpillars make great pets, both for children and for adults. Butterflies are also terrific pets as long as their special needs regarding flying space and food are met.
An enclosure for caterpillars can be really simple; it just needs to be big enough, ventilated, escape proof and safe. The enclosure should allow all caterpillars to have around 3 times their bodysize in extra floor space. A plastic box for 10 caterpillars of 6 cm in lenght should have around 25 x 25 cm floorspace. Every caterpillar should be able to feed without having to touch other caterpillars.
A lid with proper ventilation will make the enclosure escape proof. Often caterpillars do not move a lot, except for searching for food or searching for a place to pupate.
A safe enclosure does not contain any sharp edges or objects where the caterpillar can get stuck under.
The enclosure does not need any decoration, because it will be filled with the food plants of your caterpillar. On the floor of the tank you can place tissue paper to absorb any water or droppings.
An Euthrix potatoria caterpillar
Feeding your caterpillars
Caterpillars eat a lot. Feeding them enough of appropriate fresh food plants is essential for their health and growth. Caterpillars eat one or more different kinds of leaves. When a species eats different species of trees or bushes, it is good to offer several of these species to ensure a diverse menu.
When the caterpillars are small and do not eat a lot, you can feed them either by offering their food plants in a glass of water or by just placing the leaves on the floor of the enclosure. When you put the leaves in a glass of water, like cut flowers, the leaves stay fresh for a long time (around one week). When you place them on the floor, they need to be replaced often because they will dry and become uneatable. Caterpillars only eat fresh leaves that have enough water.
You can offer leaves in a cup, in this way the leaves stay fresh for a longer time. This is privet
Keeping the environment suitable for your caterpillars
Caterpillars require some moisture to keep their skin moist and to drink. Not all species need the same amount, how much a given species needs can be read at the caresheet of this species. The best way to supply water to your caterpillars is by washing the leaves you give to them with clean water. The droplets that stay on the leaves will give the caterpillars their necessary moisture.
The temperature at which you keep your caterpillars will determine their health and growth speed. Every species has its own specific temperature in which it will thrive. Keeping caterpillars at a lower temperature than their optimal temperature will reduce their growth speed a lot and can be detrimental to their health.
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