How To Raise Butterflies In A Greenhouse (Tips And Best Practices)

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Butterflies are the most adored among insects because of their lovely and colorful appearance.

Suppose you are thinking of raising Butterflies in your greenhouse. Provide them with the following: suitable environmental conditions (warm and humid temperatures), plants that attract butterflies, food bait, water source, and butterfly shelters. 

Five Tips In Creating A Butterfly Garden In A Greenhouse

First on the list of raising butterflies is to create a suitable butterfly garden. If your greenhouse is spacious, you can allocate a small part of it for your butterfly garden.

Or,  you can also opt to transform your entire greenhouse into a huge butterfly garden if you want to.

Here are five tips to consider in creating your butterfly garden:

1. Choose The Right Location. 

Designate a spot in your greenhouse for your butterfly garden.

A greenhouse is normally positioned in areas that receive full sunlight, hence the need to group your plants according to the amount of sunlight they need.

Ensuring the good health of your garden plants will also benefit your butterflies as these plants are being used for food or in laying eggs by these insects.

The body temperature of butterflies starts from 30ºC. If their temperature gets lower than this, they cannot fly.

Butterflies thrive well in temperatures that are neither too hot nor too cold, thus, do your best in finding just the right temperature in your greenhouse.

2. Grow Nectar Plants And Host Plants. 

Butterflies have their favorite plants and you have to grow these plants in your greenhouse.

Generally, they are attracted to purple, pink, yellow, white, blue, and red flowers. There are two types of plants that you need to grow: nectar plants and host plants.

Nectar plants are those that attract the nectar-drinking adult butterflies. Host plants are those that butterflies use to lay eggs on or as a food source for caterpillars.

These plants will also provide structural support for the pupa or chrysalises once they go through that stage.

In deciding what specific nectar and host plants to grow, you have to know first what species of butterflies you are getting. Butterflies have different plants that they are attracted to.

For example, swallowtail butterflies love lantanas and verbena while monarch butterflies are attracted to milkweeds.

Here are some butterfly-friendly plants you can grow in your greenhouse:

Allium

Aromatic aster

Autumn sage

Bee balm

Big sage

Birch tree

Blue mistflower

Chokecherry tree

Coneflower

Jasmine

Lantana

Milkweed

Parsley

Spicebush

Tulip

Verbena

Wild black cherry tree

Willow tree

Zinnias

3. Place Food-Baits. 

You can also provide food for your butterflies by mixing fruit(bananas, plums, or apples) with white sugar or molasses.

You can scatter these food-baits in different areas in your greenhouse so that your butterflies can easily access them. These food-baits are an important source of additional nutrients for your butterflies aside from the nectars of flowers.

4. Add Water Source.

Butterflies require water for survival. You can fill bowls or dishes with water, put soil and sand in them to create muddy water. You can place these waters next to the food-baits to hydrate your butterflies.

5. Provide Butterfly Shelters.

Although trees inside your greenhouse can already serve as a shelter for your butterflies, you can still build them shelters through an open wood box to provide them a space to hibernate.

Butterfly Garden In A Greenhouse

A butterfly garden is what you need to build inside your greenhouse if you want to raise butterflies. The garden should have resources that can accommodate the entire life cycle of butterflies from eggs to adults such as host plants, food, water, and shelter.

Since a greenhouse is designed to control the internal temperature, it should be easier for you to serve the butterflies you are raising with appropriate environmental conditions that are similar to their natural habitat.

Additional Tips:

Do not use insecticides or any chemical-based pesticides for your plants. This will kill your butterflies. Instead, grow plants that repel pests such as chrysanthemums and citrus.

Keep daily logs of your garden plants and butterflies. This way, you can monitor the health and number of your butterflies and can immediately find solutions in case of problems.

Life Cycle Of Butterflies And How To Care For Them In Each Stage

Butterflies undergo four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. In each stage, they have different sets of needs.

1. Egg

A female butterfly usually lays eggs on leaves. These eggs are tiny, round, and oval attached to the surface of a leaf.

Wait for three to eight hours before collecting the eggs so that they can dry out.

You can remove the leaf that was laid on and transfer it to a box. You can also brush the eggs from the leaves and place them on a slightly moist tissue before moving them to a box.

Your box should have high humidity suited for hatching but ventilated enough to avoid molds.

2. Larva (Caterpillar)

It takes approximately five days for eggs to hatch and become a larva or caterpillar. This worm-like creature will immediately feed on leaves as soon it emerges from the egg.

Hence, get them out of the hatching box and place them in another container three times its size.

Your container should be closed but ventilated. Put tissue at the bottom of it to absorb droppings.

You are then going to feed your caterpillar in this container with fresh leaves. Try to vary the plants you give them for food.

Remember to handle the caterpillar with utmost care because they are very soft and fragile. The caterpillars need enough moisture to keep their skin moist.

You can do this by washing the leaves you feed them; this way, the tiny droplets would provide moisture to their skins.

Their container should also be cleaned from time to time. Replace the tissues at the bottom with new ones and clean the container in cases of molds and spores.

3. Pupa (Chrysalis)

This stage is where the main transformation of a butterfly occurs. The tissues of the caterpillar are broken down and formed into a pupa where it will wrap itself in a cocoon.

It is best to hang the cocoons in strings. Wait for approximately eight days for them to come out. Until then, provide them with a humid temperature.

4. Adult Butterfly

The final stage is the adult stage where the cocoons come out and transform into beautiful butterflies.

After it emerges out of the chrysalis, the butterfly is still floppy and damp. Give it some time to dry (about two hours) before releasing it to fly.

The average life span of a butterfly is between a few weeks to 12 months. Once they become adults, they look out to reproduce and start the cycle again.

Where To Get Butterflies

Now that you learned how to raise a butterfly, it is time to decide on what species of butterfly you would like to raise and where to get them.

The easiest way to get butterflies is to order and buy them. There are a lot of butterfly farms that sell butterfly kits. They usually contain live caterpillars with instructions on how to raise them.

Once you get your kit and raise your adult butterflies, the male and female ones will eventually breed on their own.

You only need to provide them with the right space and make sure not to disturb them during the process of mating.

It is very important to bear in mind that when buying and raising butterflies, choose those butterflies that are native to your region.

It is highly discouraged to raise invasive butterfly species because they will outcompete the native species for food and reproduce very quickly, which will be very difficult for the native ones.

In the US, monarch butterflies are the native species. You can search online on which butterfly species are native in your region to avoid these kinds of problems.

Final Thoughts

Butterflies are indeed beautiful creatures that can lighten up your mood every time you see them. Good news for you because you can now raise them in your greenhouse.

The advantage of having a greenhouse is not just its safe and enclosed space but the warm and humid temperatures it has inside, which is a perfect environmental condition for the butterflies.

In summary, before raising butterflies, the first thing you should learn is how to build a suitable butterfly garden.

The five tips mentioned above were about proper location, growing of nectar and host plants, food baits, water source, and butterfly shelters.

There are also different ways of caring for a butterfly in its four stages (egg, larva, pupa, adult).

Once you learn these things, you can then purchase your butterfly kits and begin to raise your butterflies.

Always choose to raise native butterfly species over invasive ones because the latter are very much capable of driving the former into extinction.

We really wanted butterflies in the Green Garden Tribe Greenhouse, but we couldn’t agree on which butterflies, nor did any of us have the time needed to devote to this venture.

Our problem became a project when we decided to paint and stick images of the different butterflies across our greenhouse walls and doors! Everyone got the butterfly they wanted, and no one has any raising or maintenance work! Dilemma dealt with. Win-win!

Just in case several thousand of you decide to raise butterflies in your greenhouses, we’ve given you all the information you need, so, have at it – and have fun.

Jenny Marie
Tribal Writer

Edited By
Patricia Godwin

Patricia Godwin

Patricia has many years of experience as a content writer on various subjects, but her first love is gardening. She’s never met a plant she didn’t like and, consequently, she writes about every type of plant you can think of. Once an avid gardener with a herb garden, a succulent rockery, and a rose garden – to mention a few. Nowadays, she’s constantly on the move searching for interesting plants to bring to your attention; and explain to you all the details you need to grow, care and maintain these plants.

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