We love butterflies in this house! They remind me of pretty thing that make life more pleasant: green meadows, quiet afternoons, blue skies, and dancing clouds. So we decided to take a closer look at their awesome metamorphosis.
For this project, I bought a netted butterfly habitat and mail ordered caterpillars from an online company called Insect Lore.
They arrived a few days later: inside were 2 lidded clear cups and five tiny caterpillars in each of them. The bottom part had a layer of brown-colored paste that would sustain them as caterpillars.
Right out of the box the caterpillars were sluggish. However, in the following days they became avid explorers and ravenous eaters leaving big holes in the brown paste. Web-like strands, which is actually silk spun by healthy caterpillars, according to the Insect Lore instruction booklet, also appeared around the cup’s interior and around their bodies.
Of the 10, 8 eventually formed chrysalises where they hung in a J-shape on the bottom of the lid. A brown golden-specked shell covered their fuzzy bodies and the outline of their wings could be seen as pointy dots.
Most hung still except for 2 feisty chrysalides that swung back and forth. I feared early demise for them; as the kids commented, they may “get dead soon.”
When we finally witnessed the results of the metamorphosis, our whole family was amazed and awe struck. Cognitively we knew what to expect but actually seeing the process made the process more dramatic and exciting. Their small wings gradually expanded with the wing colors becoming more colorful over time. As indicated in the instructions, drops of sugar water, orange and cantaloupe slices, and garden flowers became their main food sources. To our surprise, the butterflies did not immediately devour the food, so the kids drew pictures to cheer up the butterflies and to stimulate appetite.
Three days after their metamorphosis, they were fluttering faster and stronger in the small habitat. We realized that they needed more space and nectar from new flowers.
When I shared this update, Elliot seemed ambivalent. He said, “Maybe they want to stay with us longer.” Ellis agreed and chimed in saying that butterflies liked being in the wild. When I said “yes,” she looked downcast for about a second; then she immediately smiled and asked if she could dip her finger in sugar water so that Snowflake, her pet butterfly, could walk on her finger before letting it go.
Overall, this experience taught me that for something beautiful to materialize it takes time. Also, it reminded me to look with child-like eyes at the world around me; a butterfly is a special house guest who needs fresh flowers and fruit to eat on a daily basis, a cracked window to keep them cool, and colorful pictures to adorn their habitat.
Elliot wonders if they will come back to say “hi” to us. With the kids saying they want to do this project over again, I’m reconsidering whether we should try raising goldfish again. Last summer (2016) the kids and I took a spontaneous field trip to PETCO and walked out with 2 goldfish and its supplies. I didn’t quite realize how often I had to replace the water and the kids didn’t understand that overfeeding the goldfish would kill them.
Maybe this time around we’ll have more insight into raising goldfish and coming up with names other than Hamburger and Ice Cream Flower. I do feel a name change will likely occur since those names are already taken by 2 goldfish that are swimming with the dolphins in the ocean somewhere.