Welcome back to the Summer of Science Extravaganza!!!
Ulysses and I (Summer Beach) have been sharing some summer-time science projects for you to enjoy! We shared how to sprout some herbs from cuttings and our edible cell calzone. But we saved the best for last!
Today, we are going to talk about how to grow a butterfly in your very own home!!!!
I need to calm down with a plain white bread and cheese grilled sandwich - this is seriously my favorite science project to do.
Let’s get started with this super fun zoology science project!!
A butterfly lays an egg and a caterpillar hatches from the egg. The caterpillar eats and grows, shedding its skin several times to accommodate its growing belly!
Once the caterpillar reaches the right size, it sheds its skin for a final time revealing the chrysalis, which quickly hardens. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar goes through the metamorphosis, or changes, into a butterfly.
At the right time, the butterfly breaks out! It hangs onto the chrysalis for a bit, just until its wings dry out and harden. Then, it flies off in search of nectar!
The butterfly matures and one day lays eggs of its own so that the cycle can begin again.
OK, so now that we know what happens, let's get started with how to grow a butterfly of our own at home!
It all starts with getting the right caterpillar. You can collect one from outdoors and use a field guide to identify it. That way you know it will become a butterfly and not a moth!
Or you can go the easy route and order one online. (Ulysses and I like this one from Insect Lore.)
If you don't buy one that contains the food the caterpillar will need, make sure you collect some leaves it likes to eat. That way it can chomp, grow, and shed its way to being a butterfly! We also recommend that you line to top with tracing paper to make step 3 easier and poke some tiny holes in the top so that your new friend can breathe!
Your caterpillar is going to change a lot on its road to becoming a butterfly. It will eat and grow for a week or more. Over this time, it will shed its skin several times to make room for its increasing girth. If you take a picture every day, you will be able to compare and observe that changes!
Then, before you know it, the caterpillar will attach itself to the top of your container. It will look like it is hanging upside down.
When you see this happen, pay careful attention because at some point in the next 12 to 24 hours the caterpillar will shed its skin for the final time!! And when it does, it will reveal its chrysalis home.
You want to wait a day or two to transfer the chrysalis to a mesh container. This is so that the chrysalis has time to fully harden.
Gently remove the paper the chrysalis is attached to and pin it to the top (or bottom) or a butterfly habitat (or wire mesh waste basket.)
The reason you want to do this is because the butterfly needs to be able to crawl up the side of the container it is in as its wings dry. And the side of a plastic or glass jar, which is a cake walk for the caterpillar, is like a slip-and-slide for a butterfly!
Once the slightly scary work of transferring the chrysalis is done, you can sit back and wait. It should take about a week, depending upon the species you have.
The day before the butterfly emerges, you will begin to notice that they chrysalis becomes a bit clearer and you can start to see some of the butterflies wings show through!
The day your butterfly emerges will be super exciting!!! Its body will look super swollen, but all the liquid is quickly pumped into its wings, minus a bit of red gook that it normally expels.
It takes about half a day for the butterflies' wings to fully expand and harden so that it can fly. Once this happens, you can release it into the wilds of your backyard!!
Or you can observe it for a day or so before releasing it. Just make sure you provide it some nectar in the form of oranges or sugar-water-laced flowers.
In time, the butterfly will find a mate and lay eggs of its own, to begin the cycle again!
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