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Instructions for building a catepillar/butterfly cage

Posted by greengardener07 6 - Southeastern PA (My Page) on
Tue, Feb 5, 08 at 10:30


This year I am looking to build a catepillar/butterfly cage for my yard. As I grow tomatoes and carrots, I get a bunch of catepillars (last year I got about 3 dozen swallowtail cats) and would like to be able to isolate them in a cage so they can safely grow into butterflies. My wife is on board with the idea and I need some guidance.

I read the FAQ's and I saw a brief guide on how to build one, but I do have a few questions.

Do I want to have a few small trees in there so they can attach themselves to "cocoon"?

Do I want the top of the cage to have the same materials as the sides, or should that be more like a standard roof to provide shade?

Where do I want to place this cage?

In my yard, I want to put it near then garden and it gets late afternoon sun. I do not want to fry the cats, but this would be the best place for me. If there is another better place, please let me know, and I will adjust my plans.

Thanks in advance!

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RE: Instructions for building a catepillar/butterfly cage

  • Posted by rjj1 Norman OK Zone7 (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 5, 08 at 11:26

We raised cats in small Rubbermaid containers and only moved them to our cage when cat stage was over. The cats were moved to 2 liter pop bottles cut off about 6 inches high in their later stages so they would have room to hang when pupating. We kept the cage in the garage out of the weather so it would last a long time.

One of the reasons we used the Rubbermaid containers is they are so easy to clean. Had nightmares about trying to clean our cage if we raised cats in it.

This was only done with Monarchs, so I don't know how feasible it is with other species.


Here is a link that might be useful: What We Did

RE: Instructions for building a catepillar/butterfly cage

Green, I had a "flight cage" in my backyard here in Central Florida that was in full sun all day long. I used standard screening on 3x8 panels and had 60% shadecloth pulled over the top and fastened to the panels using bungee cords. This cage was actually given to me by another Gardenwebber that lived about 4 hrs from me in south Florida. The cage got a little bit of the sprinkler early in the morning and I kept potted milkweed, passionvine, parsley as well as nectar plants inside. I would release my butterflies into the cage for a couple of days, collect eggs from the plants and then release the adults out into the garden. I always had an abundance of catepillars throughout the season. If you'd like, I think I have a picture which I could send. Not too familiar with adding pictures here.


RE: Instructions for building a catepillar/butterfly cage

Good advice Randy and Michael. Thanks.

I think what I am going to do is to build the cage in place where I will grow some sacraficial parsley and carrots directly in the raised bed garden.

I am thinking along the lines of how you would see a cold/warm frame built in a garden, but instead of glass panes and planks, I am going to use 1"x2"s, 2"x2"s and pet proof screening. Do the double layer thing also, one layer of screen in the house, another on the outside, so it will add some shade as well as protection. Instead of the slanted top of the cold frame, maybe I'll make a pitched roof and some little framed out windows for the side of the house, if I am ambitious enough.

Anyone ever try building the cage directly in the garden as I described above?

RE: Instructions for building a catepillar/butterfly cage

DH built me a cage that is currently out on my deck. As for exact dimensions, I couldn't tell you. He did the woodwork and hinges, I did the screening (roll of flexible aluminum screen, I believe, and a staple gun). It wasn't as easy as I had thought and hoped, but I eventually got it done. My main concern was keeping the edge of the screen (that I had cut) away from the caterpillars, so they wouldn't slice and dice themselves, if they did wander along the screen (which at least one did, that I know of).

Strike one against it was that I didn't make it tall enough. I figured 4' would be good, only my potted milkweeds were 5'+, so they didn't fit. Okay, I'll wait and see how I can do this. Finally, I found 2 BST cats on my parsley, which was in a windowbox on the deck, and fit only with bending the top shoots, which of course, the cats were on. Okay, no problem now, my potted parsley and cats are in the new cage. Whew. What I didn't think would be a problem was the gap on the front door; one of my cats slipped out, never to be seen again. Okay, to keep #2 inside, I put some painters tape (that wide blue tape, pulls off easily, no tape residue) to seal the gaps, temporarily. Had plenty of twigs & sticks for the cat to pupate on. From what others had told me, they never had any cats pupate on the screen itself, so I thought I was okay. My game plan was for it to pupate on a stick/twig/branch in order for me to overwinter it in my garage. Now, of course you know what happened; it pupated on the screen. So, my cage cannot fit in the overstuffed cluttered garage, so my baby is still on the deck. If they overwinter in the wild outdoors, it'll overwinter on my deck, I can only hope. It only has a sheet as a cover to shield it from any harsh winds, which we had just gotten. It's been pretty mild, so I haven't been too concerned.

Strike 2 was that I wanted to put it in the lawn. Duh, wood on the lawn, termite damage. Been there, done that, and not using pressure treated wood near my cats. I could actually put down a row of brick, then put my cage on top of it. Hmmmmm, that may work next year.

My cage gets hot direct sun from late morning to late afternoon, and it didn't fry my cats. Then again, I didn't use it until September, but I could've moved the cage had I been using it in July or August to a shadier spot on my deck. Once it got cooler at night, I covered the cage overnight with sheets, until it pupated.

RE: Instructions for building a catepillar/butterfly cage

We built a small one last year from 2x2 and window screening. It was just big enough to fit my dill and fennel. We buried it slightly in the garden and velcroed the front screen for easy access. It think next year I will make a taller one. Here are a few pics.



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