Sunday, May 3, 2009

Butterflies (and beans)

Here is an update on the "insects in my kitchen." A couple of months ago we sent away for caterpillars. They came in a little cup with food. There were 6 of them, very small. Over the next couple of weeks we watched them eat and get huge. Then they hung upside down and molted their skins to show the chrysalides they had formed. We put the little paper disk into our butterfly enclosure.

Here are all 6 chrysalides. You might be able to see that 3 of them are darker than the others. We were told that when they get dark, they're close to hatching.

Later that same day, those three butterflies hatched. We'd been checking periodically to see if anything was happening, but they hatched while we weren't looking. They hung for a while, getting their wings ready, then by evening they were crawling around and opening and closing their wings.

Two of the other chrysalides had started to get dark by this time.

The next day butterflies #4 and #5 hatched. It must be a very fast process, because we were checking frequently and still missed it.

The next morning we knew the last butterfly was going to hatch. We watched as much as we could, and still missed the actual event! But we did catch this one just after it emerged. Its wings were still crumpled and wet.

We've been feeding the butterflies sugar water (on crumpled-up Kleenex, which seems to work well) and orange slices. It's hard to see in the picture (which is taken through the netting) but the butterfly on the right has put its proboscis into the orange (to sip the juice through it like a straw).

These are Painted Lady butterflies. They're easily available through science supply catalogs or from Amazon. They have been well worth the cost! It's been amazing to watch the whole process. We will be letting these butterflies go as soon as the weather warms up a little. Then my kids want to order another set of caterpillars and do it again.

Another ongoing project that is just about done is our bean plants. We wanted to see how the roots and stem develop out of a seed, and we found this idea in a book of science experiments.

You fold a paper towel so it is the height of a jar, then put it in the jar against the inside of the glass. Then you stuff the middle of the jar with more paper towels to hold the first paper towel firmly against the glass. You put the seeds around the outside of the jar, between the glass and the paper towel. (We used pole beans because they grow quickly.) Then you dampen the paper towels and wait. It took almost a week for us to see anything happening. We kept putting a little more water in when the paper towels started to dry out. Finally the roots began to emerge, and then the stems grew upward. It's been fun to watch exactly how it happens! And now we have more patience when we don't see results right away in our garden.

1 comment:

Cori said...

What cool experiments! My kids would love to do the butterflies too. Science was always my favorite subject. You are doing such a good job with your class!