A homemade butterfly cage can be an exciting project for children and adults alike for observing the life cycle of butterflies. While you can order pop-up mesh butterfly cages online or from some pet stores, you can easily make them at home and adapt them to your own needs.
The size of your homemade butterfly cage may differ depending on the amount of space you have available and the number of butterflies you want to raise. Individual larva can be raised in a jar or other clear container with a mesh covering. If you intend to release butterflies when they emerge from the pupa stage, your butterfly cage can be smaller. But a cage should be large enough to give the butterflies room to fly if you intend to keep the adult butterflies in captivity. Crowded conditions in a butterfly cage will also result in the need for more frequent cleanings.
You can construct a butterfly cage to any specifications from scratch out of screening and wood frames, or you can create a quicker version using premade screen doors or windows and fastening them together at the corners and covering them with additional screen. You can even create a makeshift pop-up mesh butterfly cage using a mesh laundry hamper that you cover with mesh or other fabric.
Make sure that your butterfly cage allows you easy access to all parts of the cage so that you can care for butterflies and clean the cage at least every other day. Larvae produce a large amount of frass (waste) daily, and not cleaning the cage may cause your caterpillars to get sick and die during the larva or pupa stage. You also need to be able to remove old food for caterpillars and butterflies and replace it with fresh leaves or nectar every few days. Cut out a door through which you can easily access the cage floor, and fasten the door with Velcro.
When raising larvae, keep a steady supply of milkweed, as this is the only thing caterpillars eat. You can put either whole potted plants or a few fresh leaves with the stems wrapped in a wet paper towel in the cage. If you are collecting caterpillars from your garden and find them on a milkweed leaf, you can just trim the leaf and transport it to the cage. If you are keeping adult butterflies in your cage, include a supply of fresh-cut flowers in water or a dish containing a sponge filled with a diluted honey solution. You can also treat butterflies to fresh-cut melons or fruit juice, but remove old fruit after a few days so it doesn't go bad.