We purchased the supplies and sent away for our bugs.
They arrived with instructions. We opened everything up, set things up, and started our observations:
The company inadvertently sent us another complete set of bugs 2 days later. We ended up with twice as many bugs which maxed out our set-ups.
The ladybugs took about 2 weeks to progress through their three cycles. It was interesting that they start off not even resembling their final state - much like caterpillars although not as dramatic. When they were ready we eagerly released them into the berry bushes. Honestly, they were kind of stinky and grimy. Maybe because there were so many in such a tight dome.
The caterpillars had much more dramatic obvious changes. They ate and ate and ate and each day grew and grew and grew. On about day 10-12 they started hanging upside down and then a day after that they started forming a chrysalis from the inside out. I always thought they spun the cocoon but it seems more like an excretion process because the caterpillar remains motionless during the process.
They stayed inside the cocoon for a little over a week then quickly emerge from their shells. The emerging process is quite rapid. We had the cocoons in their habitat in our kitchen area and we would literally turn and the turn back again and see a new butterfly.
I did manage to catch one on the camera as it emerged.
The butterflies would drink from the fresh orange slices. We also put fresh cut flowers in for them to drink sugar water droplets from. All 10 of the butterflies survived but one did come out damaged as its cocoon did not completely close. The damage was to one of its wings so we kept it for the remainder of its life - about two more weeks. T Rex dubbed it Nemo and we trained it to drink directly from the sugar water filled pipet.
When all the butterflies had emerged from their cocoons we released all but Nemo. For a couple weeks afterward we would see our painted lady butterflies fly past or land in our flowers. T Rex especially enjoyed holding each of the creatures before they stretched their wings and flew away. When we ended up visiting the butterfly exhibit at the zoo he was quite disappointed he did not get to touch any of them after his amazing butterfly experience at home.
Overall, an excellent learning experience for all of us. T Rex can tell you all about the various stages of caterpillar or ladybug life cycles. Lil Sister enjoyed watching but she was on the young side for this. We'll be doing the caterpillar thing again. I would certainly recommend it for some hands on learning for kids ages about 3 to 4 years or older. I, myself, had a wonderful time and would literally stand for an hour at a time watching them.