Thursday, May 27, 2010

Caterpillars, chrysalis and butterflies, oh my!

We've been looking at the life cycles to butterflies in the classroom -- and due to the recent heat wave, there have been some fast changes!
First we started with caterpillars. They were all delivered in a box like this:

(looks ominous, doesn't it?)

Then the adventure began:
Inside was a jar of many, many tiny caterpillars, some rubber gloves, some food, 30 little cups with lids, a beaker and instructions.

Ms. Wren and I had to mix the food (kind of like hard Pablum) and then pack a teaspoon full into the bottom of each little cup. Then the cups had to have holes punched in the top (3 holes). Then came the fun part. You had to scoop up each little caterpillar with a paint brush (really) and place one into each cup. Without letting the other feisty caterpillars escape. The caterpillars (less than 1 cm long at this point) clung to the paintbrushes and had to be coaxed off (well, really, shook off). Fun was had by all, and I am very happy that we didn't do these preparations in front of the students because that would have ensured mass mayhem. Once we had filled the 30 cups, we still had about another 30 caterpillars! the instructions say to double them up (this hasn't worked well in the past) or to put them in the freezer (to kill them). I came up with the bright idea of putting them in jars ( the caterpillars had a difficult time with the jars -- maybe too slippery? -- so I had to put in popsicle sticks for them to climb up to the lids)

They grew so quickly! In a day or two they looked like this:

When fully grown they were about 3 cm long (1 1/4 inches). Then they climbed around their cups for a few days and then climbed to the top and went into chrysalis -- and hung from the lids of the cups. I took the lids off of the cups and taped them to cardboard which was placed across the top of an aquarium (with some netting on top).
A few days later (each stage is supposed to be at least a week, but I think that the heat sped it up a bit), the butterflies began to emerge from their chrysalis. They are beautiful! They are called Painted Lady Butterflies. We have sugar water in a lid for them to drink, but we released the ones who had emerged into the front garden today. We still have a few more caterpillars and a few more chrysalis to watch next week.

Here is what the empty chrysalis looks like:

Cool isn't it?

No comments: