Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bringing Up Butterfly

In second grade, Julia's science class had a unit on butterflies. Each kid got one caterpillar to call their own. They watched it as it formed a chrysalis. Julia wanted to have her own kit and this spring we finally got one. Six tiny painted lady caterpillars arrived in the mail. They were housed in a cup with plenty of food. Aside from being rather gross to look at, they were perfectly behaved, easy pets.

The caterpillars here are just about to form their chrysalises.
Poop and cobwebs everywhere. Not my favorite stage.
After the chrysalises harden, the butterfly keeper must move the cloth they've attached to from the cup to the mesh butterfly habitat. The instructions on this are quite straightforward. If you were to disturb a particular chrysalis too much, it might result in a mangled wing. Julia and I were pretty anxious about this step especially since her class had a metamorphic mishap. One kid's butterfly couldn't fly.
We were horrified when this guy woke up and sort of lost it during and after the move. Watch the video. The chrysalis did that for ten minutes.
After Mr. Hyperactive calmed down, things were quiet for about ten days. We looked at them expectantly. Nothing. Then one day I walked by and there was a butterfly in the cage.

We got out a flashlight and a magnifying glass to further inspect the thinning chrysalises. Then, right before school, we got to see one come out! It happened fast and it was miraculous. 

Another day passed and all six healthy, whole butterflies were out. We released them in our front yard. It might be more accurate to say we put them out. It wasn't as much of a dramatic release as I anticipated. Most had to be scooped and placed in their new wilderness home.

One painted lady allowed me to pose her on a rhododendron bloom. It's not everyday you get to interact with poseable butterflies!

This was a fulfilling experience for the whole family. We discovered that Julia is still too terrified to touch even a beautiful harmless insect, but the memory of the three of us gathered around the chrysalis as those wings emerged is precious. The kit was worthwhile even if the release party fell kind of flat.

Butterfly kits are available here. The kits include a voucher for the caterpillars.