Living Columns & Blogs

Busy butterflies

Earlier this spring, we bought a painted lady butterfly kit.

You can buy them online or I have heard Wal-Mart carries them, whereby you send in your certificate for your caterpillars.

I have wanted to do these since my son was about a year old. I discovered them years ago and kept telling myself to give it a few years until he was old enough to understand.

Finally, this year I decided he was old enough.

I bought the kit complete with caterpillars in early April, and we raised three butterflies. However, the spring was so incredibly cool, we ended up keeping our butterflies in the habitat for most of their lifespan until we finally had a warm day. (Of course, two nights later it was cold again… and my thoughts turned to the poor butterflies outside.)

During their stay in our little butterfly habitat let’s just say the butterflies kept themselves busy. Very busy, actually.

And, thankfully, my son never asked what they were doing.

When we finally released them, I noticed that we had a pile of butterfly eggs on their sugar water container.

Since I am a scientist, of course, I decided to try my hand as a butterfly breeder. I scrambled to get caterpillar food from a few sources since back in April their natural food -- hollyhocks -- were not so common in the Tri-Cities. Dandelion greens held a few of them over until my kilogram bag of dried caterpillar meal arrived from a scientific supply store.

Out of that little pile of eggs we managed to get four second-generation grown butterflies!

Once again, we released them on a warm day in early June.

Who would have thought I would once again be mourning the little butterflies when two nights later the temps dropped to the point that we actually had to turn our heat back on.

This is a great activity for families of small children. And though my 14-month-old did not understand -- she LOVED the butterflies.

And should anyone else out there have “busy” butterflies… I can be your local emergency caterpillar meal supplier. (My husband has asked a few times what in the world I plan to do with a kilogram of caterpillar meal.)