Thursday, August 12, 2010
Half-pint was really excited to open a birthday present (yes, back in January). It turned out to be the favorite present...a butterfly nursery. He bugged me and bugged me for weeks and months to send in the postcard to get live caterpillars sent to him in the mail. I patiently explained to him that it was the dead of winter and not a good time to get live insects in the mail, or to have them morph at our house. We needed to wait until it was warmer outside. Every nice day we had between January and April he was bugging me about it. Well, he eventually sort of forgot about it all, and so did I, until one day he found the box again and pulled out the order card. We were back from summer vacation and just hanging around for a few weeks (which they say is the best time to do it...when you're around and not super busy for a few weeks), so I filled it out and mailed it in.
The live insects arrived one hot summer day and we promptly opened the box to find two jars of hungry, wiggly caterpillars. We watched them for a little bit, then placed them on the kitchen counter (out of direct sunlight, so they don't over heat and cook in their plastic jars). Honestly I was a little grossed out to have the live insects in my kitchen, but I couldn't think of another place where they would be safe from bumping, etc. and still accessible to look at (and out of direct sunlight).
According to the paperwork that came with the live insects, the entire metamorphosis should take a good 2-3 weeks, with 7-10 days in between each major change. The caterpillars eat the provided food in the bottom of their jar, then attach themselves to the paper disk on the jar lid where they build their chrysalis. Then you gently remove the paper disk and place it into the netted "nursery" and allow them to emerge (7-10 days later) as beautiful painted Lady Butterflies.
Well, in just a couple of days those little suckers were attached to the top of the jar and I didn't get them moved quickly enough into the nursery. One day (the morning of the day I was going to move them, just right after we got a few other things taken care of first-like swim lessons) Half-pint took a look into the jars and one of the butterflies was just beginning to emerge! We had to act fast to get them into the nursery before they all (5 in each jar) emerged and ran out of room.
We had to run off to swim lessons-before we left 2 butterflies were "hatched", by the time we got back (45 minutes later) 9 had wings open. It was amazing to watch. We kept them on the kitchen counter for about 5 days before Half-pint decided it was time to let them go outside.
One evening as we waited for dinner to finish cooking, we took the butterfly nursery outside and opened it up and watched as they slowly left one by one for the big wide expanses of the great outdoors.
The entire process was actually pretty amazing, and the boys were especially enthralled. I would highly recommend this for anyone with preschool/young school aged kids. Both Half-pint and Quarter-pint checked on the insects every day to watch the progress and enjoy the beautiful butterflies. They couldn't wait to show anyone that came to the house. It was a lot of fun for all of us (even though the entire process took just about 1.5 weeks-MUCH faster than I expected)-it was AWESOME!