I’ve decided to really put my focus on my kids and family this summer. Over the next couple of weeks and even months, in with all the other stuff I have planned (and really, I *do* have posts planned), I’m going to share some of the Awesome Summer Awesomeness that my family and I have been up to.
In planning for our summer, I picked up a few fairly cheap project-type things for the boys and I to play with and work on together. Among those things I purchased was a Butterfly Garden by Insect Lore. We’d done an ant farm before with great success, so when I saw this for less than $10, I went for it.
First, the caterpillars came fast. We ordered online and a week later there was a cute little “live caterpillars” box in our mailbox. I was pretty impressed with this, as our ants took over a month to ship, and then all but two were dead, so another couple of weeks to get a new batch. There were five caterpillars inside our jar, and though it took a few minutes for them all to prove it to us, they were all very much alive. I had purchased some magnifying glasses at WalMart just a few days before for our upcoming Science Camp (more on that another time), so I let the boys get those out to inspect the caterpillars better.
In the jar is a thick layer of brown…something. It’s the food. So as far as the caterpillars go, there is no maintenance other than making sure naughty two-year olds don’t shake the jar. Good luck with that. We read all about the caterpillars and the Painted Lady butterflies they would become. I also made my eight-year old start a butterfly journal, as part of his daily handwriting practice, to keep track of their progress. I know! Why in the world does this child need handwriting practice… So the caterpillars went into a corner on our kitchen counter. Though fascinating, they kind of started to creep my middle son out. We had to keep them covered or hidden when he ate, because if he could see them at all, he’d lose his appetite. It was pretty funny, but then started to affect me. I even had a dream where the caterpillars turned into slimy guinea pig-type things through a process I’m pretty sure my subconscious stole directly from Gremlins.
So the caterpillars ate and grew and pooped and kind of got a little disgusting as part of our daily kitchen décor. But then one day, about a week later, they started to form chrysalis, and that was pretty cool. What was not cool was having to get the little paper at the top of the jar they were all attached to pinned to the inside of the garden habitat. Opening the jar smelled horrible. My oldest claimed he couldn’t smell it, but it had me gagging like crazy. Then the chrysalis started to shake. Like not shake because of my movement, but on their own. I had NO Idea they could do that! And it kind of freaked me out. But they all finally settled down once they were pinned safe inside their netting and there wasn’t a gagging pregnant lady yelling at her eight year old to “Help me! Stop laughing and help me now!”
And here the pictures stop because we left town and I just got lazy. But we did take the project with us. It did pretty well on the five hour drive, and I didn’t notice any crazy tremors other than the initial move to the car and then to my mother in law’s counter (I’m sure she was super excited about the surprise guests). My two oldest and I left for a few days and when we got back, about a week after the chrysalis originally were formed, the butterflies had emerged that morning of our return.
The scene my mother in law described before I saw it myself was pretty gruesome. She said it looked like a horror movie or a murder scene in there. I guess there is leftover pigment from the colors that the butterflies have on their wings? In the case of Painted Ladies, it’s red. Like blood. All down the side of the netting, onto mother in law’s counter. A little gross. But cool, too. So pretty much in line with the whole experience so far. We balled up some tissue, as instructed in the paperwork, and soaked in sugar water to feed the butterflies. They were jumpy guys for a the first couple of days, completely freaking out when I tried to move the sugar water-soaked tissue into the netting, which in turn completely freaked me out. My boys loved it.
After a couple of days, we decided to let our butterflies go, rather than pack them back home. So the afternoon of the Fourth, I gathered my boys and a nephew, went outside and opened the netting. Then the boys took turns reaching their hands in and letting a butterfly crawl on. It was really super cool. The boys would gently (even the two-year old!) pull their hands out, with a butterfly passenger onboard, to release their little friend. The butterflies would hang out for a few seconds on the boys, then suddenly take off. Seriously, SO COOL! By far worth the lost appetites and nightmares of earlier.
So, though I don’t think I’d pay $20 when you can collect your own caterpillars in a random field and house them in a cardboard box for free, the Butterfly Garden was totally worth $10 in how easy it made it for me. And we also loved that you could watch everything as it happened, which a cardboard box wouldn’t really allow. And now we have the habitat to use again with caterpillars we collect. So that’s that. Caterpillars: gross, but fascinating. Butterflies: jittery but super cool. I recommend. And I wasn’t even paid or compensated for that opinion, either!