Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fun with a Butterfly Garden

For Caleb's 6th birthday his grandmother gave him a this butterfly garden from Insect Lore. Since we got the item early, I grabbed the larva order form out of the box before wrapping it up, and was able to specify that we'd like to receive them the week of his birthday. I ordered them about 3 weeks in advance of his birthday. They arrived the day after his birthday! He was so excited!

This is the lid from the container the larva came in, picturing the Painted Lady

For 5 days (Wednesday through Sunday) we watched these little caterpillars eat and eat and eat, and consequently grow and grow and grow. By Monday 4 of the 5 caterpillars had attached to the top of the container, and had started to form their chrysalids. (The 5th one never grew, and stopped moving after a few days.)

A shot of the four chrysalids before removing them from the container

We pinned the paper from the top of the container to the inside of the garden. The instructions said that if one fell off during the week to lay it on a paper towel in the bottom, so I went ahead and placed a paper towel there just in case. None of them ever fell off, but I'm glad I put the paper towel inside because the emergence process is a tiny bit messy, and it really helped with the cleanup after all was said and done. We hung the butterfly garden from our light fixture in the kitchen so we could watch them almost around the clock without disturbing them too much.

Our hanging garden

8 days later the first butterfly emerged - without a sound, hint or sign! One minute there were 4 undisturbed chrysalids, and the next there were three with one butterfly just sitting there like nothing had happened. What the instruction booklet said would look like blood was actually meconium. As for me I'd call it blood because if it looks and acts like something it probably is :o) But I'm no butterfly expert and the writers of the booklet probably are. We added orange slices and tissues drenched in sugar water to the bottom of the garden, as instructed, and did actually catch them in the act of eating a couple of times.

Our first sighting of our first Painted Lady

It took about 3 days for all 4 butterflies to emerge. With each passing day the boys wanted more and more to let the butterflies out to let them fly around the house. No, that's not such a good idea. The dog will eat them. Let's just watch them inside the garden.

The last butterfly emerges

After they had all been out for a day or so I decided we should let them go because they really weren't fluttering around inside the garden at all. The booklet told us that the Painted Lady variety were found all over North America, and that we'd probably see them around for a few days as they did their thing and laid eggs for the next cycle. The boys were all excited to watch them leave the garden, and follow them around in the yard as they adjusted to freedom.

Outside, preparing for the release!

Unzipping the butterfly garden

Tipping the garden for release

Nope. In a matter of about 20 seconds all 4 made their way out of the garden, into the air, flew above and over the house. Never to be seen again. And we checked every day for a few days. Just in case.

Chrysalid Carnage

It was a really fun project, but my original thought of continuing to order the larva and keep the butterfly garden going was put to rest very quickly. It just wasn't as exciting as I thought, and the mommy part was pretty yucky. The boys loved the idea, and while we were doing it, were really excited about watching them. They have pretty much forgotten about it already. Out of sight, out of mind :o)

Let me know about your butterfly garden experiences! Had any truly magnificent happenings? Had any horrible butterfly mishaps?

Happy Thursday! Amy

1 comment:

Rose said...

How beautiful! I had never seen one of these before, thanks for sharing :)