Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pressing Rewind: The Butterfly Project

While I'm catching up on Facebook posts, I've been coming across other blog posts I never posted.  This would be one of them.  I started this the Summer of 2011 and never finished it...so why not do it a year and half later!  

Emerson received this adorable butterfly kit from one of Danny's co-workers and we made it into an August (2011) project.  It was a really neat learning experience for her and we had a great time watching our caterpillars turn into butterflies right before our eyes.  I think this might be another great project for this summer...time to order a kit on Amazon!!

I've included the instructions below, and then put our pictures from our experience with each step!!  Enjoy!

Instructions courtesy of:
(we did not use this kit but this gives you an idea of the process)

The first step is ordering the caterpillars.  They come separately.

This is the kit that was sent to Emerson!

Caring for your Caterpillars Your caterpillars only need the food on the bottom of their Cup to thrive and grow.  In the wild they like mallow and hollyhock plants, but our special concentrated diet is great for them.  Now watch as they eat, crawl, spin silk and grow to many times their original size!  Don’t worry if they do not move for the first day or so, this is normal.  While they are eating and growing you will see little balls on the bottom of the Cup that are the caterpillars “frass” or waste.  It should be left in the Cup. While the caterpillars are in the Cup you may gently pick up the Cup to look at them but do not shake it or be rough with them.

Important:  Keep your caterpillar Cup at room temperature (68° to 78°F) and out of direct sunlight.  Direct sunlight may cause condensation in the Cup, which is not healthy for the caterpillars.  Also, keep the lid on the Cup at all times to prevent introducing bacteria into it.

Changing from Caterpillar to Chrysalis
At normal room temperature your caterpillars should take 5 to 10 days to grow large enough to make the fascinating change from caterpillar to chrysalis.  When they are ready to change your caterpillars will climb to the top of the Cup and attach themselves, by strands of silk, to the special Disk that is under the lid of the cup.  They will hang upside down from the Disk and make a “J” shape. 

Once they are in the “J” shape, their body will change into a chrysalis and they will shed a very thin layer of outer skin that you may not even see.  During the first day while their chrysalis is forming it is very important that they are not disturbed and you must be very careful not to move or jiggle the Cup.  This is the most vulnerable stage in the development of a butterfly.  

Caring for your Chrysalides 24 hours after ALL of the caterpillars have formed chrysalides is the best time to move them into the Pop-Up Habitat.  By this time they should all be firmly attached to the Disk under the lid of the cup.  To move them to the Habitat you are going to move the whole Disk, not the individual chrysalides. First, pop up the habitat, then gently open the Cup and remove the Disk, being very careful not to disturb the chrysalides.  Using the green hook under the lid, hang the Disk securely to an inside wall (not the top) of the Habitat. The chrysalides will be hanging downward and laying against the Disk.  If any of your chrysalides become detached from the Disk gently lay them on a napkin on the floor of the Habitat next to a side wall. The chances are good that they will still emerge as healthy butterflies.  Once every day use the Mister to give them a gentle mist of room temperature water.  They will do better if misted but are OK without it.  Too much misting is worse than no misting.  As with the Cups, the Habitat should be kept at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.

Birth of your Butterflies Approximately 7 to 10 days after they have made their chrysalis your butterfly will emerge.  Although, from the outside, the 7 to 10 days of the chrysalis phase seems to be a time when nothing is happening, it is really a time of rapid change. Within the chrysalis the old body parts of the caterpillar are undergoing a remarkable transformation, called metamorphosis, to become the beautiful parts that make up the butterfly that will emerge.  
 The chrysalides will get darker as the time to emerge gets closer.  Keep your eyes on them now as you may get to witness the birth of a butterfly!  As a butterfly emerges, it will hold onto the Disk in a vertical position while stretching its wings to full size.  Don’t be alarmed if you see a red liquid, which may look like blood, coming from the tail of the butterfly.  This is called Meconium.  It’s a waste product left over from the butterfly’s metamorphosis.   
When a butterfly emerges its wings are soft and folded and it cannot fly.  Over a period of 1 to 2 hours the butterfly stretches and strengthens its wings by forcing blood into their veins.  During this time be careful not to touch or jiggle the habitat and do not try to touch the newly emerged butterflies.  Only 1 to 2 hours after emerging the wings will be full-sized and completely hardened. Your butterfly is now fully-grown and ready for flight. You can then reach into the habitat and remove the Disk and chrysalis remains.

Feeding, Observing and Releasing your Butterflies
The normal lifespan of a butterfly is 2 to 4 weeks. You will want to observe your butterflies for a few days before you release them from the Habitat. Butterflies will not eat the first day but after that you need to feed them (see instructions below.) 
Butterflies eat by unrolling their proboscis (like a tongue) and drinking sweetened water.  When they are finished they roll their proboscis back up.  Butterflies taste with their feet. You can use the Eye Dropper to place a drop of sugar water near the feet of a butterfly resting on the side of the cage to see if they feed on it. Butterflies also like to drink from slices of freshly cut watermelon, banana or orange. Once every day use the Mister to give the butterflies a gentle mist of room temperature water.  
To feed your butterflies make a sugar solution by mixing a single sugar packet in 1/4 cup of water. Fill the feeder cup almost to the top and replace the lid. The cotton wick will stay moist and the butterflies will drink the sugar water from the moist wick.  Set the feeder on the floor of the Habitat.  Keep extra sugar water refrigerated between feedings. Rinse and refill the feeder (no soap) once a week. If you run out of sugar solution you can make more by mixing 1tsp of real sugar with 4 oz of water.

After observing your butterflies for a few days we recommend that you release them into their natural environment.  This way they can continue their normal life cycle and breed and lay the eggs that will become caterpillars.  Your butterflies are not likely to breed within the Habitat because they prefer plants for laying their eggs. Painted Ladies live throughout North America so you can safely release them anywhere.  When temperatures are above 55
°F it is safe to release your butterflies. Once released, the butterflies can often be seen for several days in the vicinity of their release.  If it is too chilly, you can keep them inside for their full lifespan

We released two butterflies!!

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