Disclosure: Safari Ltd provided me the Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly free of charge at my request.
We have been raising butterflies every summer since S was old enough to walk. As the daughter of a former science teacher, it's probably not a huge surprise that S adores bugs. Butterflies are just so interesting - and to be honest, I just can't pass up an opportunity to hold one. It's still rather like magic to me. :)
Even at 20-some months, S was very intrigued by the process. She would act out the lifecycle and visit with her caterpillars every day. Though when she was this young, the rate at which they grew was a bit lost on her. Here she is visiting with her caterpillars. This set of caterpillars was from a science education company and there were 8 of them in that tiny little cup - so yes, I may have felt badly for them and upgraded them to the bigger house which you see below. As a general rule, they are fine to be raised in the cup they arrive in. :)
S was an avid bug handler, and had learned how to be gentle - and understood that you could not grab/touch the butterflies wings, so she was able to release them herself. See what I mean? Isn't this photo pure magic?
Somewhere around 3, S was old enough to really learn about the life cycle of butterflies and to be able to notice the caterpillars' rapid change in size. So I was thrilled when Safari Ltd. was willing to send us one of their Life Cycle of a Butterfly sets. Manipulatives are such a great teaching tool for children in general - and in this case, I really feel they are extra useful since handling caterpillars/chrysalides is likely to result in their death.
We have raised butterflies from several companies and have had success with all of them; here you see us using InsectLore's Live Butterfly Pavilion. We generally get several uses out of their butterfly tent and order our "refill" caterpillars from whichever company is cheapest (often science education companies will run specials during the summer).
Here is S loving on her caterpillars right after they arrived this year. She's made them a "snuggly nest".
They are soooo tiny when you first get them. Almost cute, even. Almost.
Here's where the manipulatives start coming in handy. S got to touch and poke and handle the pretend caterpillars and eggs on the leaf (she is always sad that she can't handle the real ones) and then we compared the sizes. She observed that the yellow pretend caterpillars were much bigger than her real caterpillars.
Two days later, we checked, and they were about the same size. "Whoa!" exclaimed S.
She was even more surprised to find that the real caterpillars were bigger than the yellow pretend caterpillars just two days after that.
Not long after, we got to watch as one by one the caterpillars made their chrysalides. Here S is comparing the model to the real things. The model is of a Monarch Butterfly and the butterflies we raise are Painted Lady butterflies - so there are differences which S noted.
When the first butterfly hatched, S eagerly watched it pump its wings. We've watched several videos of butterflies emerging (YouTube is great for this) and last year and this we were lucky enough to catch a butterfly emerging. It happens really quickly. Surprisingly so! In both instances the butterflies emerged in just a few seconds.
A few days later (so long as you have warm weather), your butterflies are ready to be released. They generally don't fly very far at first, so it was fun to watch them land on the plants and trees in our yard before moving on to the great wide world.
A little (touch free) snuggle before sending the butterfly on its way.
Between reading some great books (I'd really recommend this one) and playing with the Life Cycle of a Butterfly Manipulative, S is now a pro at explaining the butterfly life cycle. I asked if she'd be willing to teach you all for the blog and she agreed, but was (adorably) nervous. I love her little timid voice (and the hilarious mistake she makes) - she was a little intimidated to teach you guys! :)
If you haven't already, you can check out our Butterfly Small World here and our Make Your Own Butterfly Wings here!
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All activities here are activities I feel are safe for my own children. As your child's parents/guardians, you will need to decide what you feel is safe for your family. I always encourage contacting your child's pediatrician for guidance if you are not sure about the safety/age appropriateness of an activity. All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision. Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies). Observe caution and safety at all times. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.