Yeah, yeah, I know. But my kids loved it, especially my daughters. Plus I'm a little weird too! My son had a few caterpillars in his classroom and his classmates watched as they turned into chrysalis', then hatched into an amazingly colored monarch butterfly. Well I thought I would give it a shot, so here's what I learned...
Where to start
Milkweed, lots of milkweed. The first step for me was figuring out what milkweed looked like.
Now that you know, you'll start to see this everywhere. in Indiana, it starts growing early Spring, will blossom purple blooms around early July, and will stick around until Fall. I actually dug some of this type of milkweed up, planted in a landscape area a couple years ago and it has taken off! But in 3 years, no caterpillars...
We have a great county park down the street, so I would wander through the park and try to find caterpillars on their milkweed, but still no luck! During one of my walks, I thought I would search for other types of milkweed, which landed me here...
This is called Butterfly Milkweed. Which was also blooming all over the place at the park. There aren't many plants that are blooming in orange, making these plants stand out. We found our first caterpillar shortly after looking for the orange blossoms! The yellow, black, and white striped critters were actually quite easy to spot! After 20-30 minutes, we found two. We left the park with our first two caterpillars and were excited to see them grow!
We ended up with Ball jars, with the lid bands only. I cut a piece of square piece of old screen that I had, then screwed the band down over the screen for plenty of ventilation. So when I found the caterpillars, I broke off a small piece of the Butterfly Milkweed and placed it into the Ball jar with the caterpillar. It was great to have the Common Milkweed in my backyard though, because I could break a leaf off once a day and the caterpillar would MOW IT DOWN!
The caterpillars were in the jars for 3-4 days, eating and pooping the whole time. We knew they were getting ready to turn into a chrysalis when they would hang around the screen at the top, then you would see some webbing, just like a spider web. Over night, they turned into chrysalis', hanging from the screen by the webbing! It was really cool to see!
The chrysalis' didn't change for about a week, and they don't require anything that time period. The change that you'll start to see is when the bright green chrysalis turns clear, which looks black due to the black of the butterfly inside! Be ready for this stage though, because they came out without us knowing, silently, and quickly. I read they like mid-morning and ours held true to that. 10-11am and here they were!
So here was our first butterfly child! You can see how the wings are still deflated and wet. We left it alone for a couple hours, just laying the screen over the jar. It hung out for a while, its wings slowly getting bigger. We carefully past it around for the kids to take a picture with. I really was a magically experience! They ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!
We took Flutter (my daughter named it) outside after they all had a turn. By then, the wings were more firm and looked ready to fly. We went outside and it quickly flew off into the blue sky! It was a great experience for our kids, with very little upkeep and only a torn milkweed leaf to keep them happy. If you think you're kids would like this, DO IT!
Jack of All Trades, Master of None