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Friday, May 18, 2012

flutter by butterflies

The monarchs have returned to our northern neck of the woods. Their return is VERY exciting. They come, lay their eggs, flutter around for awhile, and die.

So, butterfly projects, we shall do. (I am all about themes.)

I recently obtained a rainbow of wool at a local "fiber festival." (FUN!) We simply wrapped bits of this wool in pipe cleaners, bent the ends into feelers, snipped off the remaineder, tufted out the wool, and strung them up on a hoop. Voila. Adorable "flutterby" mobile (as little man adorably called them when he was a little guy, and yes, I was mad the day someone corrected him and he stopped saying it...)

Here is how we did it: (keep reading to find out about our butterfly egg rearing project!!)

i tried with more attractive yarn first...

little man voted for pipecleaners...

And the other day, on a family walk, we came across some milkweed and I had a fabulous idea. Lets find a leaf with a monarch egg, claim it as our own, and raise a butterfly! And, lo and behold, we found one!! They are teeny tiny white dots on the underside of a leaf. Milkweed is a little hard to spot as a young plant, without the tufts of downy seeds coming out of the top. If in doubt, break a leaf off, white milk will come out. But, BE CAREFUL. Apparently the milky stuff is really toxic and can cause temporary blindness if it gets in your eyes! Yikes.

We found a site that talks about raising caterpillars and followed their suggestions. (More resources here and here and a great page on rearing through the full life cycle here)

Basically, here are the steps. Keep the single leaf in a clear plastic container, with a hole punched in the middle. And wait. Only a few days though, because three days later we woke up to an empty shell (we could see it glistening at the bottom of the container) and a tiny tiny black speck on one leaf. We cut out the speck from the old leaf and tranferred on to a fresh leaf (per suggested by that site) from the same plant (keeping fresh in a vase of water). The next morning (today!) he had doubled in size, maybe tripled, and we could see little teeny holes where he had chewed out the leaf! (But, you have to be sure to give them a fresh leaf each day.)Seriously, lets face it, I am more into this than the kids. Really fascinating. Apparently they double in size each day! Replace the leaf each day for two weeks. Clean out the poop too. Then when your caterpillar starts slowing down its ready to form a chrysalis. Place a sheet of toilet paper at the top of the lid, replace the lid. This gives it something to hang out to. Then watch!

Also a note: Apparently we are encouraged to raise tiny little eggs because only 4 to 6 out of a THOUSAND eggs make it to maturity! More and more because of pesticides that cover the milkweed (make sure your milkweed doesnt have any pesticide exposure!) but also bacteria and birds and such.

Then little man spontaneously got out his school book to draw a picture of our findings, along with his speculation about what the butterfly will look like. (This is homeschooling! I tell myself, I CAN DO THIS!)

see our little tiny guy in there?

with arrows to show transformation cycle :)


  1. I love love love your butterflies! I wish I would have seen this yesterday as I was at a gardening festival and they were selling wool at one of the booths.

    Very creative :-)

  2. fun! glad you like them amanda and hope you find some wool to try it out! and thanks for visiting :)


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