A few weeks ago I found some very hungry caterpillars munching away at some stinging nettles. I decided it would be cool to take a few home to raise them, watching as they transitioned from caterpillar to butterfly…
I used a very simple set up of a bucket filled with stinging nettles with a mesh covered top. If you try this with different kinds of caterpillars, make sure you use the right foodplant! It can be quite easily worked out by watching the caterpillars in the wild or identifying them and looking it up online.
Sadly all but one of them ended up being parasitised by wasps. This means that a wasp has laid an egg inside the caterpillar, which manipulates the caterpillars normal behaviours. This means that a lot of them don’t make it to chrysalis and even if they do, the maggot will soon hatch inside it’s host and eat it from the inside out – grim!
On a much happier note, fortunately one caterpillar did survive and emerged as a beautiful Peacock Butterfly just two weeks later. Growing up so late in the year, this butterfly will over-winter in its adult form, mating and laying a new brood of eggs to hatch in the spring.