Sunday, March 14, 2021

National Learn About Butterflies Day - March 14th

Some of these posts take a day to come together. Others can take a week. Some, like this one, end up being a couple months in the making. But when it's all said and done, it's something really fun!

March 14th is National Learn About Butterflies Day! Outside the house, in some of the flower planters, the kids have discovered caterpillars! Awesome!

Years ago, when we were at Epcot for the Flowers and Garden Festival, we came across a giant butterfly tent. 

Inside were trees with lots of caterpillars crawling around. 

And also a butterfly box with dozens of cocoons. Hmm. Interesting.

Back to the caterpillar in our planters though. 
Ian wanted to know if he could hold the caterpillar, and yes, I don't see any reason not to. 

Pretty fun to have it crawling all over you. Its legs can grab onto things really well. 

They loved finding that caterpillar in the flowers. 

Hey Ian, want to come inside? 
Nope! He was content to hang out with the caterpillar outside, watching it eat, and crawl around. 

And even got a visit from a passing Ladybug. 

The next day we were right back out there looking at the caterpillar when there was also a visit from a passing butterfly. 

Ian put the caterpillar back onto the plant so they could have a family reunion. 

There's a before and after, with the caterpillar in the front and the Monarch butterfly in the back. 

The kids wanted to be outside, and decided that this caterpillar needs some schoolin. They brought out their books to read to it. 

And let him crawl around the book looking at the pictures. 

More students! A baby, juvenile, and grown caterpillar. 

Knowing that this was just half of the process, I wanted to figure out a way to make sure we saw the rest of the process of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. Yes, there's kits you can buy online, that even come with caterpillars, but I'm sure I can cobble together something myself. I asked Chi if I could borrow one of her plants to use as a structure. I learned this was a jalapeno plant, so I'm curious if the caterpillars will eat these leaves. 
Using a storage bin, some screen material, and painters tape, I made my own Butterfly Habitat! If you look back at some older reports, you might see it sitting on top of the fridge in the dining room. 

We found one of the larger caterpillars and adopted him. 

He happily made his way around the plant. I put in a piece of pear, some lettuce and spinach leaves, plus a few cuttings from the plant that we found him on. Every day we'd watch him for a little while, just to see what was new. 

Three days later, our caterpillar went up to the top of the bin, attached itself by the rear, and just hung there. It hung like this for hours, slowly curling upwards. 
I looked after lunch and it was pretty much like this. 

So imagine my surprise when I came down for dinner and noticed that our caterpillar had transformed into a chrysalis! The chrysalis was really tiny compared to how big I thought the caterpillar was. It's like half the length of the caterpillar was before. How is it all fitting inside there? 

I called for the kids to come see!

They were both very excited to see that the caterpillar was moving on to the next stage!
And then, we waited. There wasn't a whole lot to do except wait to see if something would emerge. 

Eleven days later and we're starting to notice some changes. The original green has started to become translucent and I'm seeing some darker colors inside. 

As excited as the kids have been, I think Grammy is just as excited, or maybe a little more. 

It's really starting to get translucent now! I took this picture before I went to bed. 

And the next morning, this is what we woke up to! Wow! Everyone was thrilled! 

How exciting!

After making sure the butterfly had dried his wings and was moving them properly, it was time for the big finish. We brought the entire habitat outside and let the whole butterfly habitat warm up in the sunshine. Our butterfly is becoming a bit more active too, now that we're outside. 

The whole family was present. We've been waiting for this moment for a while!

The kids had to run off to get their iPads to take pictures for themselves. 

After everyone was ready, I opened up the screen a little further, giving our butterfly the chance to fly free. 

From there, his very first perch was Theresa's shoe! 

After staying there for a few moments, it's finally time to join the world. Showing a surprising amount of skill for it's first flight, our butterfly took to the skies and over the neighbor's fence. Thank you butterfly! Come back and visit us!

Here's a look at the leftover chrysalis after our butterfly has moved out. 

I pieced together a few clips we took of the journey. 

After having had one caterpillar grow up into a butterfly, the kids saw another caterpillar and wanted to do the whole thing again. This time I was a little more prepared for everything that would happen. 
We were watching a little more closely this time as the caterpillar found his way to the top of our habitat to see what was going on. He spent a little time in this spot and it looked like he was spitting up the white silk that the chrysalis would hang from. 

Then he did a 180 and stuck his backside onto the white silk pad he had created. 

The first time the caterpillar turned into a chrysalis, we completely missed it! I wanted to see what was really happening, so I set up my GoPro in TimeLapse mode, along with a big battery pack to keep it going for hours. (Video at the end)

It curled up into a J for a while. 

It was nighttime and I didn't want anyone to disturb it the next morning, so I put up tape and made a keep-out zone. 

I was watching it the next day, but it stayed curled up in that J. Then all of the sudden, it was a chrysalis! I have to go check out the time-lapse for this. Amazingly it goes from caterpillar to chrysalis in 200 seconds! No wonder we missed it the first time around!

I put all the time-lapse stuff away and the caterpillar inside its chrysalis sat on top of the fridge for the next 12 days. As time went on, the green of the chrysalis started to disappear and the dark black of the butterfly wings started to show through. 

I caught it turning into a chrysalis, so I'm certainly going to try to see it emerge. I had two cameras going at this point because I was being ambitious. When it went from caterpillar to chrisalis, I was taking a photo every 10 seconds. It would have been nice to have photos more frequently. his time I have one camera set up for shots every 5 seconds, and the other one was every 2 seconds.
I set it all up before I went to bed, hoping that my memory cards would hold out. 

Checking the next morning... we've got a butterfly! I opened the front of the lightbox and everyone took a peek inside. Chi was especially tickled about the whole thing. 

Once it got warm, we took the whole enclosure outside. Actually I carried the whole enclosure outside and then we spent a few minutes peeking through the lightbox curtain trying to find the butterfly. I re-traced my steps in the house and found it on the carpet in the living room! I scooped it up and took it back outside to the lightbox and closed the curtain again. 

This little guy is ready to be free! As soon as I lifted the flap, he flew out and landed on Alli's knee. Moments later he took off straight up into the air, as high as our two story house, and then flew off to explore a brand new world! 

As promised, here's the timelapse video of the caterpillar turning into a chrysalis and then emerging as a butterfly. Chi thinks it will be super popular. More than any Disney story I've ever written. Can you tell she's excited about this kind of thing? It's been fun watching two Monarch caterpillars turn into butterflies!


  1. So wonderful you were able to capture the transformation was quite a sight to see the caterpillar encase itself in the chrysalis...then see a colorful butterfly emerge (so much larger than the chrysalis, too!)...amazing to see how God's little creatures are formed! What an exciting learning experience for everyone to see up close! EOM

    1. It was a lot of fun for everyone here to see how it all worked. I also like it when I pick a project and have to figure out something new along the way to make it work out like I'm picturing in my head.
      Now, when we see a monarch butterfly on our walks, we imagine it's our butterfly, and we say hello again.