Learning Environments & Curriculum

Growing Butterflies

Watching the metamorphosis of butterflies is fascinating!

Every spring we purchase painted lady butterfly larva (another word for caterpillars) from InsectLore. They come in a little cup with the food in the bottom. We place the cup on the front counter with information about the caterpillars and what’s going on in there. With each stage we add more information about the process.

As the caterpillars grow, lots of little green balls show up in the bottom of the cup. Yep. That’s caterpillar poop. Kids love to talk about that. As they grow, they will molt and leave behind their exoskeleton (great time for building vocabulary). They will continue to grow and spin silk for about a week, and then the change begins.

The caterpillars hang themselves from the top of the cup and begin to pupate.

They hang in a “j” shape and shed the final exoskeleton to become a chrysalis. This is a great time to talk about the difference between a chrysalis and a cocoon. Do you know the difference?

A butterfly forms a chrysalis and a moth spins a cocoon.

And then the magic happens!

Another week later (or there abouts), the metamorphosis will be complete. A beautiful butterfly will emerge. Often a red liquid comes out with them that looks like blood. This substance is called meconium. It’s simply the waste left over from the metamorphosis.

We feed them sugar water for a few days and then we have a “release party”. Some of the kids make wings to wear. Some have butterfly hats – and we go out on a sunny day to let our butterflies go. Now we talk about how butterflies are different than moths. A moth lays its wings flat because it knows it’s beautiful and wants you to look. A butterfly is shy and keeps its wings together and closed. A moth’s antennae look like feathers. A butterfly’s are long threads with balls on the end.

And then we say goodbye so they can go out into the world to start the life cycle again.

© Copyright 2018 Helen Fern

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