As I mentioned in my last post, we went to a Butterfly House and bought a caterpillar habitat so we could watch it transform into a butterfly. The habitats were $10 and included a monarch caterpillar on a milkweed plant, along with some instructions. This seemed like a good deal since other caterpillar habitats cost more and you have to send away for the caterpillars. At least with this one, I know we are starting with a live caterpillar. I also thought this would be a fun and educational experience for the kids. We set it up in our playroom and luckily it never got bumped too hard. I'm happy to report our caterpillar not only survived, but it transformed into a beautiful butterfly and the kids got to witness the process.
So here's what our habitat looked like when we brought it home:
There's our little caterpillar.
For a week it was just eating and eating. The kids could see it getting a little bigger each day and. Then it hung upside down in this "J" shape for a day.
The next day, it shed it's skin one last time and formed a chrysalis.
I thought it was interesting that there was some gold on the chrysalis and when I researched it, I could only find out that it has something to do with wing development.
The green chrysalis got more transparent and the day before it emerged, you could see the wings.
Shortly after I took the above picture, the butterfly emerged from the chrysalis.
The wings slowly unfolded.
Since it takes 1-3 hours for the wings to dry, you should release it after that time. We were going to the movies and I didn't want the butterfly to get caught in the netting so we tried to turn it loose outside after an hour. The butterfly wasn't ready to fly away and just hung onto the netting. When we came back from the movies, it was gone. Later that day, we saw it flying in the back yard. We haven't seen a monarch butterfly this season in our yard before or after that, so I think we can safely assume the one we saw was ours.
Here the girls are saying good by to "Mona Lisa", the monarch butterfly.
Oh and in case you are wondering how we knew it was a girl (it's all but impossible to tell the sex of a caterpillar), we used this chart. Our butterfly didn't have a spot on the wing so that made it a female.
Anyone else do the caterpillar habitat thing? How did it work for you? I enjoyed checking on the caterpillar everyday and found it interested to watch the metamorphosis.