I found out different facts such as caterpillars are pretty picky with what they eat and generally only eat one type of plant so it is important to know where he was found! The kids of course just said "on the ground over there", so I went with the only plant over there. You need to have part of the plant for the caterpillar to feed on and you want it to be in water because the caterpillar gets its water from the plant it eats. You need to put a screen over the water or cotton balls in it to make sure the little guy doesn't drown if he falls in. It says you can pretty much use any container and we happen to always have large plastic containers that pretzels and animal crackers come in from BJs or Costcos, so that is what we used.
Some sites said put dirt at the bottom, some didn't specify, but I figured he was found on the ground on the dirt so I would like him to be as comfortable as possible in his new home. It also said to make sure that he has a stick to climb on to get to the plant he eats. We forgot this step until we saw him trying to climb the side of the container and he couldn't so we quickly added a stick and he climbed right up and started eating away. It was hard to get a good picture of him eating through the container, but it was really neat watching him chomp away at the leaves.
We used a panty hose sock to cover the top so he could get air but not out. I found that it was a little thick and a lot of condensation was collecting in the container so I poked some small holes in the container and it has been fine since.
The first day was a little touch and go with Caterpilly (the kids named him). The first 24 hours he just laid on the bottom of the tank kind of curled up and didn't really do anything. I even poked him a little to make sure he was still alive! Who knows how many times he was dropped and squeezed by the well meaning kiddos before he made it to me for a new home.
Today he finally recovered and started eating and crawling around so it looks like he is here to stay for about a month. We have since collected 4 more caterpillars. So we have Caterpilly, Bell, Sweetie Pie, Fred, and Optimus. They are all doing well and growing very fast. They are eating leaves like crazy and they like fruit trees so I read that they will eat banana slices and some fruits. One caterpillar ate some of the banana, but they weren't too interested in them.
I think I might be more mesmerized than the kids by the caterpillar family we have. I can't pass their habitat without checking on them!
I will post updates as he grows and starts his process of turning into a moth. The kids are thrilled to have a new pet.