Empowering Student Innovation for a Clean Energy Future

A Caterpillar Castle

A Caterpillar Castle

Zola C. and Kensleigh S. – 3rd Graders at Sally Ride Elementary

Building a Habitat for Monarchs

Kensleigh and Zola with their completed Critter Comfort Cottage.

Team Design Video – We chose to build a habitat for monarchs because the population has been disappearing. Also, they have many predators such as ants, aphids, lizards, mice, and wasps that can eat them when they are eggs or tiny infants. We built this habitat to protect the monarchs from the predators, which will help raise the amount of monarchs that make it to the butterfly stage. According to (Triangle Gardener Magazine) monarch eggs only have a 5 percent chance of reaching adulthood!
Our design has two chambers because older instars can accidentally eat smaller instars, so we built it this way to help prevent this from happening. The first chamber holds eggs and first and second instars. Once they reach the third instar we will move them to the second chamber, where they can grow into the fourth and fifth instar then chrysalis, where they complete their metamorphosis into a butterfly. We made it big enough so that we can put the milkweed into the habitat. We have milkweed in the habitat to feed the caterpillars. The caterpillars eat a lot which means they also poop a lot. So we put in poop trays so that you can easily take it out, clean it and put it back in. Chamber 1 has a rain cover to help stop rain and flooding from coming into the habitat because the baby caterpillars could drown. Chamber 2 has a plastic lid for chrysalis making on the ceiling. 
We worked together to build plastic cup towers to keep the net up and stop it from falling. We used duck tape to tape the cups together. Then we used Velcro to keep the net up on the cup towers. We used several recycled items in our creation including a plastic container lid used as a base, plastic deli trays used as the poop catchers, and a plastic deli lid used for chrysalis, and an amazon bubble mailer for the rain protector.

Research and Design Planning

Drawing about the life cycle of a monarch.
List of Works Cited/Used in Research

Cottage Construction and Design Documentation

We worked together to build the Monarch habitat on November 23, 2021 following our drawn design plan. We used the materials listed below.

Habitat Features – Close-Ups

Critter Test – Caring For Instars

Selecting the right size instars for each chamber of the habitat to begin the Critter Test, November 23, 2021.

Project Log- Critter Test Observations

Date1st Chamber Observations2nd Chamber Observations
November 23, 2021Instar ‘A’ – 3/4 cm in length, stage 1
Egg was observed on a leaf
Instar ‘B’ – 4 cm in length, stage 5
November 28, 2021Instar ‘A’ – 1 1/2 cm in length
Instar ‘C’ – newborn 1/2 cm – egg had hatched!
Instar ‘B’ – bright green chrysalis formed on leaf
December 2, 2021Instar ‘A’ – 2 1/2 cm in length
Instar ‘C’ – 1 cm in length (doubled in size!)
Instar ‘B’ – leaf that chrysalis was on wilted
so we taped it on the plastic lid.
December 4, 2021 Instar ‘A’ – 3 cm in length –> moved to Chamber 2

Instar ‘C’ – 2 cm in length (doubled in size again!)
Instar ‘B’ – still a chrysalis

Instar ‘A’ had molted and was moved to Chamber 2.

December 7, 2021Instar ‘C’ – 3 cm —> moved to Chamber 2

‘A’ – bright green chrysalis
‘B’ – dark green chrysalis
December 9, 2021No more instars in chamber 1.‘A’ – darker green chrysalis
‘B’ – chrysalis clear and empty, butterfly emerged and was released
Instar ‘C’ – made “J” shape, starting to make chrysalis
December 10, 2021‘A’ – dark green chrysalis
‘C’ – bright green chrysalis
December 12, 2021 ‘A’ – dark green chrysalis
‘C’ – bright green chrysalis
December 15, 2021

‘A’ – very dark black chrysalis in the morning, by the afternoon, the butterfly had emerged – (see video of release below)

‘C’ – darker green chrysalis
December 18, 2021‘C’ – very dark black chrysalis in the morning, by the afternoon, the butterfly had emerged and was released

This was the final butterfly release. It was extra special as ‘C’ had hatched from its egg and was born in our Critter Comfort Cottage!
**Instars A, B, and C all made it to adulthood butterflies.
We are thrilled our habitat performed so well.

Release of ‘A’

Instar ‘A’ was released as a butterfly on December 15, 2021

Overcoming Challenges

Team Caterpillar Castle working together to care for instars. One challenge faced was that the milkweed started wilting due to a cold front outside. To overcome this challenge, the habitat was moved into the garage during very cold nights. This helped the plants to revive and therefore keep the instars well nourished.


Below are photos and videos describing our project as we would have done in a Face-to-Face presentation.


Our poster is aimed at caterpillars. It tells caterpillars about the dangers of living in the wild and how the Caterpillar Castle can keep them safe.
Our brochure is aimed at people who want to help Monarchs. It explains why Monarchs need help, how the Caterpillar Castle keeps developing Monarchs safe, materials used to build the Caterpillar Castle, and shows the design.


Our portfolio is where we keep all of our research materials and designs. It was a good tool to keep us orgainized.

Design Details

These plants are fake. The butterflies and caterpillars are masterpieces made by the team using clay, plaster, and ceramic paint to present this project face to face.

5 thoughts on “A Caterpillar Castle

  • I’m so impressed!! Thank you for caring about the Monarch butterflies and building this castle! Obviously, an incredible amount of time and research went into your project and it sure paid off! Congratulations to both of you!

  • Great job, girls! If I were a monarch butterfly, It would be a dream to live in your Caterpillar Castle!

  • WOW! You put a lot of work into this project. Good luck!

  • Girls… This is an amazing project!
    You did a very awesome job designing the caterpillar castle. I am sure this design will help Monarch butterflies to stay with us for many more years.

  • This is incredible. I think it is one of the best projects I have seen. What knowledge you gained from this experience! The documentation is exceptional and the whole project just blew me away!


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