Monday, August 18, 2008

Raising Butterflies

Well, this is from a few weeks ago, and I'm just getting around to posting it. Summer is flying by faster than the speed of light, it seems, and this is one part of it I don't want to forget!

Nana asked us to water her plants for her in early July when she was out of town. We headed over there one day, and while watering the herbs, I realized that they were being destroyed. Something had eaten almost the entire LARGE bunch of parsley! Oh-no!!

Wait......what is that? Oh's covered in caterpillars! They've eaten everything but a few stalks, leaving only a few nubs behind. Man, Nana is going to be bent! Okay, how do I salvage this? Gotta get rid of the caterpillars. Hmm...not about to TOUCH them! Have to go inside and figure out what I can use to get rid of them.

So, I walk into the kitchen, find some scissors, and go back outside, right about the time the cartoon-ish light bulb goes off over my head. CATERPILLARS!!! Caterpillars turn into butterflies!! How cool would that be?

I go rushing back into the house, calling for Ethan, looking for the boys bug hunting enclosure to put the caterpillars in. Ethan is running around following me, "What? What? What? What mom, What? What do you need that for?"

I take him outside, and show him the caterpillars destroying Nana's plants, and tell him we're going to take them off and take them home and see what happens. "COOL!!!!!!!!" (Boys are so much fun!)
fat caterpillar

We harvest 9 caterpillars from the parsley plant, along with a few sprigs of parsley that they haven't eaten yet. Toss them gently in the bug collector, and head home to drop them off. Can't leave them in the truck in the heat while we go play, so we leave them on the kitchen table and go out to meet friends for playgroup.

When we come back a few hours later:
Ethan: (rushing to check on them...) oh COOL!!! They're POOPING!!!!!!!!
Me: No they're not. Why does everything have to be about poop?
Ethan: Yes they are. They're pooping A LOT!!
Me: Show me. I don't think they're pooping....we just got them in there.

Well, sure enough, then entire enclosure thing was covered with disgusting green caterpillar poop. It was everywhere. It was amazing. I've never seen so much poop from such little creatures in such short time! GROSS. I didn't plan on having a box of caterpillar poop in my kitchen, but now we're committed so it's too late.

We do some research on the internet, figure out we think they are Anise Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillars. Well, that's a relief. I wasn't even sure if they were the kind to turn into butterflies or not! They love parsley (go figure) and fennel, according to the internet, so we get them some from the store and load up the enclosure.
Caterpillar Habitat

We watch them for a few days, cleaning it out and putting in new food, amazed at how much they eat and poop. Eventually they quit moving. They're not dead, but they're not moving. Then all of a sudden they are all wrapped up and attached to the wall or ceiling. Of the nine, we had 2 make it that far. The others died for whatever reason. But we had a green chrysalis, and a brown chrysalis. (Chrysalis is for butterflies, Cocoon is for moths....Ethan will tell you if you get it wrong!) We watched, and watched, and watched. Then we watched some more. Nothing. Rats. I was starting to think this was going to work.
Green Pupa - #1

Then all of a sudden, there's a butterfly in there flapping around! LOOK!!! IT WORKED!!! ETHAN HURRY AND COME SEE!! YOU'VE GOT A BUTTERFLY!!
first butterfly
We had a butterfly enclosure all ready to go, just made out of some netting, so we put the butterfly in there and watched it for a few minutes. Actually we kept it in there for a few hours until Daddy and Grandma and Papa could see it.

Then we let it go outside and watched it fly up to the trees. It was really cool! Nicholas waved and said "Bye bye...." So cute.
ETHAN,Butterfly enclosure

A few days later, the other one came out too, and we had a second beautiful butterfly. Then we realized that these are more black than the anise swallowtail, and after some more research we've figured out that it is a Black Swallowtail. Totally cool summer fun! More about Black Swallowtails here...


megan said...

that is super cool!!!! What an interesting experience for a kid. I never got to see something like that. My mom would have FREAKED if I brought bugs in the house. :)
I saw something like that recently through a flickr friend (we bonded over our love of pit bulls) anyway, she took some awesome pictures of a monarch hatching:

Tara said...

Michelle, you are the coolest mom! That is so neat.


Michelle said...

Wow! Thanks Megan & Tara!