Growing Butterflies from Caterpillars
Blogged by James Preece on 3rd May 2011
This is something every parent should do with their children. You can buy yourself a butterfly garden kit for on Amazon for £15 and it will be hugely educational for children and adults alike.
That's right guys, prepare yourselves for another nice blog entry!
The kit includes a sort of net tent thing for the butterflies to live in and a tasteful green pipette for feeding them with. It doesn't contain any butterflies or eggs or anything, you wait until you are ready and then you send off a postcard and they send you a caterpillars in the post!
They are very small when they arrive...
They are also very, very easy to take care of. They are in a sealed plastic tub with some air holes and you basically put it on a shelf (away from direct sunlight) and they feed themselves on the mysterious sandy goo.
Soon they begin to grow bigger...
Then they grow bigger...
Then when most of the food has been churned up and turned in to caterpillar poo they start hanging around on the ceiling. Wouldn't you? I mean.. the whole floor is covered in poo.
The transformation from caterpillar to cocoon takes a few days and a few days more to harden. The caterpillar doesn't wrap itself up, the cocoon just sort of seeps out of it's skin and goes hard, with shiny gold bits.
Eventually the time comes to take the lid off the tub and transfer the cocoons to the tent thing. The roof of the tub is a thin sheet of paper and you simply cut the paper around the cocoons and then hang them in the tent thing with a safety pin.
What I hadn't realised is that cocoons are not entirely solid.
If the little fellow inside suspects he is under attack from a predator of some kind, he wiggles and jiggles his little heart out until his cocoon rolls away under a rock or something. This is how I ended up nearly having a heart attack!
Fortunately we manly men type people think nothing of handling wierd wriggly squidgy things.... urgh, it was a bit horrible.
This is where the religion bit comes in - it's all very symbolic you see. There we were on Good Friday with our grim Easter Tree reminding us of the wood of the cross and in the corner five caterpillars hanging in grey shrouds.
A few days later (not, alas, on Easter Sunday - that would have been awesome) the first of the butterflies emerged from their cocoons. The cocoon gets darker and darker until you can see the colour of the wings and then you know the butterfly will be emerging soon.
The emerging part happens very quickly. The girls and I missed all of them but Ella was lucky enough to be stuck in the house all day (ahem) and saw one of them emerged. It was over in moments.
I came to the garden and found an empty tomb and a beautiful butterfly.
We enjoyed them for a few days and then it was time to release them in the wild... well, the garden, which is fairly wild!
We unzipped the tent thing and they just sat there! Eventually they came out to have a fly around and one of them was even so kind as to rest on my hand...
It even allowed me to pass it on to Ella...
All in all, growing butterflies from tiny little caterpillars was a most excellent activity especially around Easter time. I never knew butterflies had such amazing tongue thingies.
We will definitely be doing it again next year.