Friday, August 18, 2006

Butterflies and Ladybugs

Newborn ButterflyButterflies' first home
Poor Little GuyWell, hello there!
Peek-a-boo!Let them be free!
This truly has been a summer of butterflies and ladybugs for us. At Christmas, K received a ladybug habitat and a butterfly kit. The concept for both gifts was the same. The box came with a container and a post card to order larvae. We ordered both at the same time late in the spring. The ladybug larvae arrived first. I didn't take pictures but certainly wish I did. I never knew what ladybug larva looked like before. They are ugly. I didn't get pictures of the ladybugs or the great ladybug release. I need a compact digital camera.

The butterfly larvae came shortly after the

ladybugs. We have done the butterfly thing before so it wasn't new but it was still amazing. We received a plastic cup filled with 5 caterpillars and a lot of muck that they use for food. The cup has a plastic lid with small holes in it. Before snapping the plastic lid on the plastic cup they place a paper disc on top of the cup. The paper disc is slightly larger than the lid so the lid holds it securely in place. The paper disc looks like coffee filter paper. The caterpillars munch away on the muck in the cup and rapidly grow plump and long. After a week or so the crawl up to the paper disc and begin to "chrysalize". I learned something new this time around. The caterpillars don't spin a cocoon, the covering they develop is actually their skin.

Once all of the caterpillars have gone to sleep DH gently removed the plastic lid and the paper disc then hung the disc in the net house. Then we all waited for the miracle of metamorphosis. It didn't take long, about 5 days. We woke up one morning and there was a butterfly flitting around the net cage. Eventually all of the butterflies emerged.

We had one poor butterfly that didn't quite make it all the way out of its chrysalis. When the caterpillars were growing they produce a weblike substance which they seemed to use to suspend themselves above the much. The one poor guy that didn't quite make it got his chrysalis caught in the sticky webbing and wasn't hanging straight down while he was sleeping. The other 4 butterflies emerged from a hole broken at the bottom of the chrysalis. "Little Guy" (as A named him) started to emerge from a hole at the lowest point of his chrysalis which was closer to the middle than the end. Maybe that was what caused the problem. (You can see Little Guy in the second row of photos below.) We have an ongoing debate about whether these are Monarch or Painted Lady butterfiles.
ETA: A quick Google search has identified our butterflies as Painted Ladies.

We released the butterflies the day we left for vacation. Getting ready for vacation is always an adventure (someday I'll blog about the time we went away and left my suitcase behind!) There are always a million things that have to get done and we are all running around tripping over each other trying to get it all done. J went out on the deck to put his golf clubs away and stopped short at the doorway. He almost stepped on a beautiful black butterfly. It looks like it was trying to hid in our doormat. I guess his body was pretty well sheltered but the wings were all out there. I wasn't sure if it was alive until it eventually flew away. I was startled when it moved and didn't get a picture of it in flight. Even if my reflexes were better I don't think my camera takes pictures fast enough to have gotten it.

The last picture shows A getting ready to release one of our "home grown" butterflies. This represents quite a change from the butterfly release we did 6 or so years ago. A was afraid to go near them. When one of them flew out of the habitat and landed briefly on her head she was very upset until we told her that the butterfly gave her a kiss for taking good care of it. She's had a soft spot for butterflies ever since.

1 comment:

Jen said...

we have the same butterfly house and just released ours a few weeks ago. The only thing we didn't like was the pink goo that dripped out.