Saturday, April 12, 2014

"B" for Butterfly week

On March 13th I ordered a caterpillar to butterfly kit and they came the very next Monday on the 18th or something!  I was impressed.  We weren't quite done with Apple week yet though so the timing was pretty good.  This is how big they were when we started.

This caterpillar to butterfly kit was the best that I could find and it's quite affordable.  Most of them you have to buy the butterfly cage and then send off for the caterpillars, but this all comes in one and it comes really fast!  Check it out here

And a few days later --- they grew fast!

For the first few days the girls were excited about taking pictures of the caterpillar's growth.
About a week later they started working toward the pupa stage and finding their spots on the paper roof (Note: For you mom's that aren't wanting to touch caterpillars, never fear, because these come in the container and you don't open it until they are all in the chrysalis stage and then you just take the paper out with them attached and hook it into the top of the butterfly cage.)

Getting comfy about to shed their final skin and reveal their pupa skin (chrysalis)

Something I learned in this process is that they shed their skin four times and the final shedding of skin reveals the chrysalis.  They don't "make a home" for themselves, they actually attach themselves right before the last molt and when they shake off their old skin they ARE the chrysalis and under the "skin" of the chrysalis they turn all liquidy and transform into butterflies.

Our "butterfly week" chalk board drawing.  We were learning some notes on recorders as well.. so, hence the cherries and fingerings for the "gab" and "bag" songs

A couple days after the first three made the change the other two joined them.  The 6th one was actually a fluke because we were only supposed to get 5 and the 6th was a tiny one that probably wasn't meant to get in.  He took another week to turn into the chrysalis and the poor little runt (as we affectionately called him) had a lot of trouble because when he wiggled to kick off his last skin his chrysalis feel from where it hung.  This can happen and the best thing to do is just carefully transfer it to the bottom of the butterfly cage, but being on the ground can be less safe for them as well.  He didn't make it.  While he was alive when he emerged he was damaged and never got his wings stretched out and dried properly.  It was really really sad.  :\

Here is the butterfly house hanging up and we always checked on them every time we walked past.

Brownies start with the letter "B" too!

Other things we did while we waited for them.  Writing some "B" words and my oldest getting all fancy with the letters.

I happened to already have this poster.  You just buy two of the same one (I got this at the dollar tree) and then cut one of them up and get sticky velcro to put on the pieces.  Then the kids can match the pieces all up as you talk about whatever the poster is about.  (Talk about a great way to learn the presidents or something, right?!)

Our chalk board later in the week with more "B" words

Then suddenly one morning (the 3rd of April) I happened to go downstairs earlier than I usually would and happened to see two of our butterfly out of their chrysalis!  I pointed them out to Grace (who was with me) and instantly the older two girls heard my voice and woke up and whispered excitedly to each other and rushed downstairs!

The other ones were quite close behind.  The third came out just a few minutes after these two and the other two came out a couple days later.

The red stuff is NOT blood.  Actually it is the waste from the butterflies and drips from them especially right after they first come out.  Don't worry, totally normal.  ;)

We watched them a lot.  The girls liked to gently breathe on them so they'd open their wings

These by the way are Painted Lady Butterflies.  Renna (pictured here) thought that the boys should be called "Painted boys" or something.  Haha.. I told her that they didn't answer to their name anyway so they didn't care what they were called.

More watching and watching.

I fed the butterflies by hand with sugar water.  It's 1 part sugar and 9 parts water that is room temperature or slightly higher.  I just put 4 T. of distilled water in a bowl with 1 T. of sugar and heated it up just enough to dissolve the sugar and then put the other 5 T. of water in to cool it down enough.  I put cotton balls in it and coaxed the butterflies onto the cotton balls until their tongues -- their Proboscis -- would uncurl and slurp up the liquid.  I fed them 2 to 3 times a day and made sure they all got a little sip, though butterflies eat different amounts I read so not to worry if some drink a lot more than others.

My girls made up their own imaginative play and projects to go along with our theme.  Here they are playing butterflies.  The middle one however is a Luna moth and they took turns "flying" when one said it was day or night time.  I forgot to take a picture of my oldest's butterfly garland that she hung from our mantle.  She drew and cut out paper butterflies and hung them all on a string

We had to move the butterfly cage within the first day or so because our new cat was too interested in the fluttering wings

One evening right before bed we noticed these two little love birds mating.  And a short talk about the boy and girl attaching to each other so they can make eggs and new caterpillars suddenly became part of our lesson plan.

Another project they worked on was drawing pictures of butterflies and flowers on our window with special window markers.  I love when they do this because it occupies them so well and they usually use the "scene" in their imaginative play with their toys and so forth.

We took care of the butterflies from Thursday when they came out till the following Monday with no problems.  I might have been the most excited of all as I tended them and fed them and let them crawl on my hand.  They got to know me right away and didn't hesitate to walk on my fingers as I gave them their food.  The weekend was super busy so I didn't get a chance to buy a host plant (a plant for the mommy to lay her eggs on) till Monday morning.

I finished feeding them all and noticed that one had a swollen abdomen and deduced that she was the one who needed to lay her eggs asap.  We rushed off to the green house for a specific plant and when we got back we found the cage on the ground with claw marks in the sides of the butterfly house. 

This was the mommy butterfly and her abdomen was injured and later she couldn't fly because the liquid dried and made her wing stick to herself.  The other butterflies were hurt as well, but they all could fly fairly well.  One of the butterflies had trouble flying but I think it was because when it emerged it fell to the bottom of the cage and I had to help it onto a branch so that it's wings could dry.  That one never flew well, but you can imagine how upset we all were about our lovely butterflies that were so healthy and happy just an hour before.  We were planning on releasing them the next morning or even that very day (It had been raining on and off all weekend so I was hoping to wait till Tuesday when it was supposed to be sunny for the rest of the week.)

The chrysalis that had fallen on it's on almost a week before suffered from the crash as well.  Thought this butterfly did emerge on schedule a few days later, the butterfly (though alive) was never able to spread it's wings.  It just struggled for a foot hold and some way to move and was just trapped in is chrysalis shell unable to get totally free.

This was heartbreaking.  My vision to release all the happy butterflies was dashed.

We did release 4 of the original 5 and here is one that landed on our fake christmas tree by our back door for a while.  Note how well she blends in? 

Here is before I released the rest of them.  I wondered if they could get a little healthier before I set them free and I kept them in for one last night.  No one ate.  I offered the same sugar water that they'd loved before and no one wanted any.  I tried oranges because I'd read that that was something they'd like and they didn't care. 

The mommy with the injured abdomen was probably in pain and would have just gotten eaten if we'd set it free so I read up on euthanizing them and how to pin them.  I hated hated hated hated doing it.  I did the freezer method, where you put them in a zipploc and put them in a freezer till they die.  My husband thought this was gentler then putting them in a jar with toxic air.  I kept fiddling with the bag to "make her comfortable" before she died.. silly I guess, but caring for them for so many weeks made this all the harder.  When I was pinning her after she died in the freezer (I did all this after the kids were in bed) I kept apologizing to her in my head as if I was hurting her by moving her wings out. 

The next day we left the last three out I guess it was.  One (the one that had fallen from the top right after emerging) that couldn't fly well stuck around for quite a while.

Here's our little injured flier "playing" with the youngest.

We carefully set her on the flowers that we especially bought for our butterflies.

Gracie called this one her "little friend" and was quite careful about letting him walk onto her fingers and she learned how to gently let him walk off onto a plant.

I think she played outside by her sand box with her "little friend" or at least an hour or more before we had to go somewhere.  When we came back we couldn't find him.  I'm afraid that a dove that likes to hang out back there probably had a nice meal.  Really, it's been an extremely difficult end to our butterfly week, but there were good parts to it.

Today we went to the Nature Exchange at the zoo and traded in the mommy butterfly that I pinned.  I'm so glad she's out of the house.  Every time I looked at her I felt sad all over again because of what I wish I'd done differently to spare her life.  I know they die in a few weeks anyway, but I'd rather have set them all free in triumph and not had to see their demise.. or been a part of it as I was with her.  They however did get more points for her than they'd ever gotten for any other single item before.. so her death wasn't in vain I guess?
Random other part of our school during our butterfly week though it doesn't have anything to do with butterflies.  My oldest would rather stamp her words instead of writing them out so they had fun doing their words with stamps and a rainbow ink pad.  I don't have pictures of the other things that went with our theme as well, but I'd gotten a bunch of books from the library on butterflies (some more scientific and some just butterfly stories) I also got picture books about Bunny's and Bats and Bananas and so forth.  Really, we just run with a theme or letter and plug everything we can into it

Fancy Nancy: Bonjour, Butterfly
This book I actually bought (couldn't get it from the library and I really wanted it!) about Nancy who is helping her best friend plan a butterfly themed birthday party, but then she can't go to it!  Learning to deal with disappointment in this one and later she gets to go to a butterfly house and so on.  It was a lovely book to add to our collection.

  So, here's the end of "Butterfly week" .. it started out fabulous and ended terribly (as my two older girls have said at different times.)  I don't have the heart to do it again too soon, but we definitely learned a lot... all the way from their transformations to "new birth".. mating and sadly to the point of predator and prey and injury and death.  :\  

I'm staying up way too late writing this post, but I wanted to get it over with so we could move on to our next letter. 

"C" is for Chocolate!  Oh, I mean Cow-- that gives us milk for chocolate chip cookies!

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