The following is a list of the materials I used for this research project. Materials listed were ordered through both Carolina Supply Company and Ward's Natural Science catalog, but similar materials could be substituted, based on your space, time, or budget considerations. On the "Research Timeline" page, I provide suggestions for alternative approaches and materials.





I purchased two dozen from Carolina Supply Company. This way, nearly every student could have their own butterfly. They arrived in a small plastic container in pairs, and arrived in the larval (caterpillar) stage:


Price: $18.95 for 30 larvae (Carolina Supply Company Catalog)




This was the center of attention after the caterpillars turned into chrysali, as they are transferred to this new home. The habitat should be sturdy and fairly transparent for viewing. It should also be easily accessible. I purchased a nice black-netted reptarium from Carolina. It has side zippers for easy access to the inside:

Price: $65.00 (Carolina)




The habitat should be enhanced with light from the outside. I used clamp spot lights. A bonus, besides being able to light up the Painted Ladies, is that the adults are attracted to the light
and become more active for viewing when you turn them on.

Butterfly attracted to lamp light, which is resting on top of habitat:

Price: $5.25




The Painted Ladies lay their eggs on member plants of the mallow family. I picked up about 8 hollyhock plants at a local flower dealer. The plants performed well in the habitat. Mallow plants are available to order through Carolina. However, I would warn against ordering plants through the mail. I experienced some difficulty reviving the wilted mallows I received. And the butterflies seemed to love the hollyhocks:

Another possibility is to try using common thistle, another host plant for the butterfly. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to very economically transplant some from a field or roadside.


Thistle- free!

Mallow plants- $8 per plant through catalog

Hollyhocks- about $3-4 per plant (but local plant dealers may be generous if you tell them about your educational intentions for the plants- I scored 8 for $12)




The Intel QX3 Play Microscope was marketed as a children's toy, but is an excellent tool for capturing close-up shots and time-lapse images of the stages of the butterfly life cycle (from caterpillar still shots to movies of the adult butterfly emerging from the chrysalis). As seen in the pictures below, an incredible feature of this microscope is that it can be used in its upright rest, or as a handheld device: flyer3_.htm



PC compatible: $30-100. Most stores have discontinued sales of this product, but check eBay -- you'll find many for sale. Another source: for under $50

Mac/PC compatible: $160. Neo/Sci now sells a version of the microscope that works on both platforms and comes with a curriculum guide complete with directions and 36 suggested
activities with the microscope. You can find more information at




You will need a computer in order to view the images from the digital microscope. The computer will serve as a workstation for the students when using the digital microscope:




The digital camera will allow students to record their observations to reflect upon later. They can use the images in their final natural history report on the Painted Lady life cycle and can also use them effectively to show others what they observed via a project website. My students put a website together using only pictures they took with the digital camera. We borrowed cameras from the school's media center.

View my student's research website

Price: $200 to $2,000




When the caterpillars turn into their chrysalis form, we transferredthem to a hanging position in the large habitat. To do this, we rested the cheesecloth to which they were attached over the holes in the test tube holder, with the chrysalids hanging freely through the holes, ready for hatching. This setup is seen below, to the right:

Example Test Tube Rack

Student Photograph of Our Setup


Price: $5-$15




After the butterflies emerge, and the students have a chance to describe them, they should have a guide book in order to identify the species. Until this point, the identity of the butterfly species should not be revealed.

The Golden Guide to Butterflies and Moths is a great reference, showing the insects in different stages of development, as well as providing distributing maps. They are also the most affordable that I have found! Another option is to borrow a guide from the library or from another teacher. Your students really don't need more than one or two (my students had one), as some can use the book when others are making observations.

Price: $6.95




These are supplementary to the research with the Painted Ladies. I purchased three Spicebush and three Tiger Swallowtail chrysali. Below is a picture taken of each species. The students can compare these two species' appearance and development to that of the Painted Ladies, but this is optional. Our swallowtails did not start to emerge for months after the Painted Ladies, so don't give up hope on yours! They're not dead, but they are awfully slow to emerge...

Price: $21.50 (Ward's Mixed Swallowtail Set)




The swallowtail chrysali were housed in smaller, less expensive habitats like this one.

These habitats are not as useful for the Painted Ladies due to the fact that they are not as easily accessible from the outside. You must untie the cord at the top to enter. Since the swallowtail pupae take a long time to hatch and do not require much attention, these habitats worked well in housing the slow-pokes. We had two hanging habitats, one for each of the species.

Price: $12.00 each

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