Raising butterflies

This spring the boys were given a butterfly kit, and we raised two batches of Painted Lady caterpillars into butterflies. 

The boys eagerly watched as the caterpillars grew, checking them several times a day. Our youngest would often move a chair over and climb up into it so he was tall enough to see the caterpillars.  

The kit came with an observation journal, including a place to draw what was happening inside the cup every day. This was a great activity for our oldest son, who loves art. It was fun to see how he drew what was happening as the caterpillars changed.  

When the caterpillars started forming a chrysalis, the boys’ excitement built. We moved them from the cup into the butterfly house, which involved more work than I expected. According to the instructions, if you don’t remove the silks around the chrysalis, the butterfly could get tangled up in them at emergence and have deformed wings. I didn’t do that the first time we raised caterpillars, and we ended up with two butterflies fitting that description. Lesson learned:  Reread the instructions at every life stage because my mom brain can’t remember what to do seven days after I originally read the directions.

From there the boys counted down the days on our calendar until the butterflies were supposed to emerge. They’d run to the habitat every morning to see if there were any butterflies and check on it throughout the day.  

Once the butterflies emerged, the boys enjoyed watching them fly around their habitat. Our youngest especially loved watching them, and he would laugh a deep belly laugh as only a toddler can.

Butterfly house
Heather Barnes

The big decision was where to release the butterflies. I’d bought seed packets with a mix of flowers for butterflies, which we’d started in the greenhouse and transplanted to the vegetable garden. Our oldest wanted to release them there, but our flowers weren’t even thinking about blooming. So we let them go behind my father-in-law’s house, where his wife has an oasis of flowers. The boys watched them take flight and followed the butterflies as far as they could, until they finally flew out of sight. 

A week later we were an hour away from home at the river and a butterfly flew by. “Look mom, it’s one of our butterflies,” said our 4-year-old. I was doubtful, but Painted Lady butterflies do migrate to warmer climates for the winter, flying up to 100 miles a day, so maybe he was right.

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