Eagerly awaiting very hungry caterpillars

Yesterday was the first day of spring. This year, I’m working hard to make sure we have lots of spring fun. Aside from our seed-related activities, I’ve ordered painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore. Choosing among ladybugs, butterflies and ants was tough, but butterflies definitely offer the most drama.

So, here’s the deal. Insect Lore is shipping us caterpillars in a cup with special food. The caterpillars should feed, molt and grow for about a week. (Did you know, caterpillars molt? As they grown they burst out of their skin, revealing the new skin underneath. Eric Carle never mentioned that one.) Then they should build a chrysalis and transform into butterflies within about a week.

Our kit includes a special butterfly-net habitat so we can feed and watch the butterflies for a couple of days before we release them into our backyard. I’ve already double-checked to make sure painted ladies will survive in our area. I know from research I’m doing for a book that some butterflies are very picky eaters. Monarchs stick to milkweed. Karner Blues love only lupine.

The boys are excited. One of their Nature’s Miracles books is called Once There Was a Caterpillar. We’ve read it over and over to learn about the caterpillar life cycle: eggs, caterpillar, pupa (in a chrysalis), butterfly. As I’ve noted before, I love this series because each book contains ideas for talking with your children about the subject. as well as activity suggestions, books to read and useful Web sites.

Do you have any spring activities on your agenda? How do you celebrate the arrival of sunshine, warmth and new life?

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20 Replies to “Eagerly awaiting very hungry caterpillars”

  1. What an exciting experience for the kids. I’m very inspired to do this with my kids. I’ll just have to do some research before getting the right butteries – and pick up, Once There was a Caterpillar!

    1. Painted Ladies can live pretty much anywhere Jen. That’s what Insect Lore will send you if you go through them. I’ve also learned that many teachers supply stores sell the kits.

  2. My father is a butterfly fanatic. Every year he scours fields for milkweed and looks at the undersides of the pods for monarch eggs and/or caterpillars. He’s hatched and released innumerable monarchs. He also participates in a huge “community” project that tags and releases monarchs to track their migration. The project supplies him with tiny little tags. He skips through fields with his butterfly net, carefully trapping monarchs, searching their wings for tags, tagging them if they don’t have one, and then letting them go. He them enters into the project website the tags he sees/applies. The monarch migration routes are so complicated and are a scientific mystery because no one monarch ever completes the migration. They only live for about 3 weeks, but they all continue the migration from Canada to Mexico.
    Anyone can sign up to participate and it’s all tracked on a website for the university that is supervising the research. If you live in an area that monarchs pass through, maybe you could participate. If you are interested, I can ask my dad for specifics. We live in NYC so there’s not much opportunity to do this sort of thing. Not sure that it would be acceptable to release any butterflies here.

    1. That’s fascinating. I’m not sure if we are monarch country — we live in the SoCal desert, and I’m not sure we have milkweed. But, if you check with your dad and let me know, I’d certainly be interested in helping out.

      1. The organization that does the tracking is at http://www.monarchwatch.org . My dad also recommended this site: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/ . It has a ton of monarch facts and resources for kids. They have some pretty cool maps of monarch sightings, so you can check and see if they pass through your area. I think it could make an amazing project to do with kids! I’d love to hear more about it if you decide to participate. Cheers!

      2. I just looked at learner.org. What an amazing site! I don’t think we are on the main migration route, but thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful learning resource.

  3. What a great idea to do with your littles…I’ll have to try it too either this year or next…though I’ll need to find a store like Insect Lore in Canada…they don’t ship here.

    1. Jackie we took the caterpillars to school today, and they were a hit. I did learn that many teacher’s supply stores carry butterfly supplies and mail-in coupons for caterpillars this time of year. Maybe you have those in Canada?

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