Insect Lore was founded by one Carlos White, an entomologist working with insects in the agricultural industry. During this time he learned how to raise insects and prepare artificial diets for them. By 1965, White had asked himself the question, Wouldn’t it be wonderful if children could see the miraculous metamorphosis of butterflies up close? This inspired him to develop an educational kit that would allow students of all ages to witness the metamorphosis of real, live butterflies in their own homes or classrooms. The Painted Lady butterfly was found to be the ideal candidate for the kit, because this species is found almost everywhere in the world and has a positive impact on the environment. The butterfly kit seemed like a great idea – but the key to its success would be to create a special recipe designed especially for Painted Lady caterpillars. This unique recipe would enable the caterpillars to receive more than enough nutrition to successfully transform into healthy Painted Lady butterflies.
White and his wife experimented with multiple combinations of food supplements for Painted Lady caterpillars. White finally discovered a successful dietary formula for the caterpillars in 1969 and the Live Butterfly Garden was born. It was a revolutionary idea: a customer could purchase an educational kit that included a butterfly habitat and a certificate. The customer would then mail the certificate to Insect Lore’s “butterfly nursery” and in return would receive live baby Painted Lady caterpillars. The caterpillars would be shipped to the customer in a special jar that included White’s unique caterpillar food. Over a span of approximately three weeks the Painted Lady caterpillars would eat, change into chrysalides, and finally emerge as adult butterflies in the Butterfly Garden hatching box. After a few days of observation, the customers would experience the joy and wonder of setting their very own Painted Lady Butterflies free to begin the incredible life cycle all over again in the great outdoors.
Insect Lore now specializes in many innovative educational products for young learners and their signature Live Butterfly Kits have brought science to life in countless homes and classrooms over the years. Their goal is to give children a friendly, hands-on introduction to insect metamorphosis, entomology and life-cycle learning. While their main focus still lies with their butterfly-related kits and educational material, they have expanded their product line to include ladybug, ant, and praying mantis kits, as well as bug catchers, keepers, viewers, and other exciting items for insect lovers.
Insect Lore in SPACE!!!
In July of 1999 NASA’s Columbia Space Shuttle carried some unusual astronauts…Insect Lore Painted Lady butterflies! Insect Lore partnered with a group working with NASA to put the winged creatures into orbit. Spacehab, the team NASA used to conduct living experiments on the space shuttle missions, approached John White at the National Science Teacher’s Convention. “When we were asked to be part of a shuttle launch and send the first butterflies into space, we immediately said yes!”
The question: Would caterpillars undergo metamorphosis in a zero-gravity environment? Would an adult Painted Lady butterfly form properly within its chrysalis without the aid of gravity to “pull” its parts into place?
The experiment: A set of Painted Lady chrysalides were housed in a specially-designed habitat developed at the University of Colorado. Video feeds of the progress of the butterflies’ development were available via the Internet from spacehab.com, a website dedicated to the flight. A curriculum was developed with a high school near Atlanta and the students monitored the mission from their classroom.
The result: All of Insect Lore’s Painted Lady butterflies successfully emerged aboard the Columbia – in fact, they hatched perfectly in orbit! The astronauts also got a kick out of watching them fly upside down in zero gravity. The butterflies and their habitat have been preserved and were placed on permanent display in Washington D.C. at the National Air and Space Museum on May 3, 2000.