Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Butterfly Science

Forest Zoo and I have been studying insects for science. We ordered some Painted Lady Caterpillars. They arrived a few days after the beginning of April, and were quite tiny. They were inside a shallow cup eating food as fast they could. We followed the directions and left them in the small cup until they were larger then 5/8th of an inch long. Then we were to put some food in a larger cup and transfer the caterpillars to the new cup. They grew amazingly fast in the new cup.
Eating! Eating! Eating! I wasn't sure what was in the provided food, but it must have been something really special. Those larva loved it!
Less then two weeks later, they started forming chrysalis. Soon six were hanging from the filter paper that lined the lid of the cup. One was laying on the bottom. He must not have attached securely to the roof.

The chrysalis are gray with gold spots. They surprised us by wiggling sometimes. I've always thought that they were kind of dead in this stage. We learned that the wiggling is to scare away predators. We learned that when caterpillars form their chrysalis, they turn themselves into liquid, and then reform into a butterfly when inside. When the butterfly emerges, some of the left over liquid can come out too. It was as red as strawberries. We misted the chrysalis daily with water until they turned black, then it was almost time for them to emerge. I was amazed that the time in the chrysalis was so short. It was just a little longer then a week.

Monday morning shortly after getting up I found the first butterfly had hatched. That changed the course of the whole day. When ever would school be so interesting! We transfered the chrysalis to a large aquarium we own, so they would have room to move around. We added some flowers and sticks to sit on. We had plans for regular homeschool, but all we could do was sit there and watch the butterfly, and his brother's hatch. It was amazing! They come out of the chrysalis so quickly, you really have to pay attention to see the whole thing.

I think this is one of my favorite science projects we have ever done. It was as exciting for me as watching a baby be born.

Painted Lady Butterflies are very beautiful! All seven of our babies hatched.

It is too cold outside for butterflies to be out and about. It is freezing every night. Monday it snowed twice! So we are experimenting with keeping them happy in our aquarium, in hopes that there will be some eggs laid and we will get to see the whole process once again.

4 bouquets of wildflowers (Comment here):

Teresa said...

How exciting! Great science!!!


Hildegard said...

Oh, the sheer delight of it! You will never regret these moments of wonder with your children.

Shady Gardener said...

Very impressive project, and for a young nature-lover like your son, very impacting! :-) And, what a wonderful thing to do together. Way to go!!

Theresa said...

This is the fun thing about homeschooling, huh?! I have seen the Painted Ladies in the woods here. Nice pictures.