Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nature Study :: Growing Butterflies

The start of a new school year seemed the perfect opportunity to finally order the caterpillars that came with the butterfly habitat we received in the spring.  This is something I have wanted to do for years, ever since reading Charlotte Mason's List of Attainments, but we have never had caterpillars in our own yard to observe.  So I was happy to find this kit as a second-best option.

Five caterpillars arrived a week later, and a few days later, we woke up to find two had molted into their pupas.

We were able to watch the other two pupate that morning at the breakfast table.  The last one was such fun to watch--wiggling off its molt, spinning faster and faster from its hook until it finally flung its last skin against the side of the cup and fell still.  We all squealed with excitement. 

And then the butterflies emerged much the same way, two overnight and two before our eyes: breaking through their chrysalises, wriggling out with their front legs, waiting for their wings and antennae to unfurl and dry, then fluttering around the cage.

They have been such a treat to observe.

We let them go this weekend.  I opened their habitat and waited for them to hurry away--but they didn't.  They stayed within, letting out their long tongues to dip into the flowers we dropped in there this week, flying up to the top but not quite out.  A couple hours later, all were finally gone but one.

It stuck around a little while, finding a favorite spot on Gianna's pant leg.  She stood motionless for several minutes, content to have it there, until it finally hopped off and onto a yellow clover for a quick snack, then into the hebe bush for another sip, and then over the fence and away.

I'm thinking this will be a once-a-year tradition for us.


  1. For us, too! This was the second year that we raised butterflies in the same habitat that you used. The boys really enjoyed it. We sadly missed their emergence from the chrysalids as we took a last minute trip out of town. We loved watching their tongues this year, which was something we hadn't noticed last year. This will definitely be a once a year deal in our home as long as the interest persists.

    1. Yes, the tongues are so neat! We all thought they looked like a third antenna. :)

  2. Hi Celeste. I have really been enjoying your blog for the past few months.
    Here in North Carolina we have had really good luck planting parsley and fennel for Black Swallowtail caterpillars. This year we were fortunate enough to come across a Polyphemus Moth that wouldn't fly. We brought her home and she laid about 20 eggs before dying. Out of those we now have three chrysalis's. If we get a female we are going to try mating her so that we can share the experience with our friends.

    1. Oh, Britt--how neat!! Wish you lived closer so we could come take a peek! :)

  3. We haven't kept butterflies for years! Let's see... it has been about six years, which means that the only one who might even remember is my 12 yo! High time to do it again, don't you think? I think we'll have to wait until spring though, everything is so dry around here I'm not sure there's all that much for a butterfly to live on. I haven't seen one in the garden for at least a month. But it is in the calendar!