"One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it brings."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fly, be free butterflies!

Yesterday was the day we released the butterflies we've been watching grow.  I knew it would be a great day since the weather had warmed up a bit and it was sunny.  My daughters and I had ordered a butterfly habitat from insectlore.com and watched as tiny caterpillars grew, then hardened into chrysalids and then about a week later emerged as beautiful Painted Lady butterflies.  Painted Lady butterflies are found throughout the United States and many other parts of the world.
When they arrived they were in a little cup that contained the food that they would need.  The caterpillars were so tiny and still I thought they may have died.  According to the directions that was normal.  They became active a day or so later, crawling all around in the cup and grew much larger.  In about a ten days they crawled up to the top and curled up, and formed chrysalids.  Once all 5 were ready we pulled the lid off the top and gently pulled the special paper off that they had attached to and hung it inside the butterfly habitat.
You can see the 5 chrysalids hanging in the back.

Once they emerged as butterflies we fed them the sugar water we made.  We tried putting drops on camellia flowers, but they seemed to like the cotton ball method better.  We watched them drink the sugar water from the cotton ball.
Sweet Pea watching out for the resting butterfly.

Three of them took off right away.  One of them first stopping off at the dogwood for a rest.  The other two took a little longer to decide to fly away.  
This was the only one to land directly on a flower, a pretty one too!

Another butterfly waiting on a lavatera leaf until it was ready to leave.

Now we have added to the pollinators in our area, hopefully they'll help a lot of flowers around here.  This was a neat learning experience, very educational for both my girls and me!
The littlest gardener wore her new butterfly shirt for the occasion.

I would definitely do this again with my girls and use this same company.  All 5 caterpillars became butterflies, you can't beat 100 % success!
I've seen other butterflies around our yard over the past few weeks, mostly the Cabbage Whites.  I know we'll be seeing a lot more soon too.  Hopefully the relatives of the Painted Ladies we released will be back to visit us.
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  1. What a smashing project! I have a feeling I might try this with my 11 year old son who would love it (his 16 year old sister would still run a mile from the creepy-crawlies!)

  2. Oh, what fun! I hope they stay in your garden. We had an amazing migration of painted ladies here a few weeks ago, but they didn't even stop for a photo ;->
    Great project!

  3. That looks like so much fun. The girls really got a lot from it and your flowers will enjoy it too!

  4. How sweet!!! I love that you were able to share this wonder of nature with your daughters. I think an up-close view of nature really helps kids appreciate and respect the earth.
    Have a great weekend!

  5. What a great experience. A fun project, great success and such pretty photos to keep in your memory album. I love the Little Gardener's bfly shirt! Wish I had one!!!

  6. Catherine that is such a neat project to do with your girls. You're such a good Mommy. ;-) Maybe I'll get one for the boys. They've been so good about watering their seeds and have plants now I'm sure they would like to do this! Caterpillars - a great crawley boy thing! Yah I think they'd love it.
    Anyway what a great post!

  7. What a lovely thing to do and great that there is a branch in Cornwall UK for European gardeners. I could not see if you were able to choose what species of butterfly must have another look. We do have a big variety in our garden so I probably won't get any but it may be useful for others I know.

  8. Hi Catherine

    This is a really nice thing to do.

    What a great thing for kids to be involved in.

  9. My English Country Garden - I bet your son would find it interesting. I was fascinated with the whole process.

    Town Mouse - I bet seeing a butterfly migration would be really neat, I'd love to see one.

    Tina - It was really interesting. I thought my little one would be sad that they flew away, but she didn't mind.

    Ginger - I agree. I'm glad to do my part to help my kids become caring and responsible adults.

    Mildred - It will be a fun memory. My little one is very particular already about her clothes. She loves pink.

    Linda - You should do it with them. I bet they'd love it. It didn't take long at all to get the caterpillars and you can reuse the habitat.

    Joanne - That's great that it can be done there too. I think here it's only Painted Ladies but maybe there are more choices in other parts of the world.

    Rob - It was great for the girls, and I liked it as much as them (maybe more).

  10. How interesting! I didn't know that one could order Painted Lady Butterflies. Must have been fascinating to watch the process from caterpillar to butterfly. They're lovely, and hopefully they and their relatives will stick around to pollinate flowers in your garden.

  11. What a fun thing to do with the girls! A learning experience and a fun project. My daughter and I did this when she was little and she's liked them ever since. Glad for your %100 success rate!

  12. Catherine, What a great mom you are! This is such an educational as well as valuable project for the family. I'm proud of you! :-)

  13. We have the exact butterly cage and we grew the painted ladies too! Now we are looking for caterpillars on the plants so we can pick the leaves and put in the cage and watch this all over again!

  14. Thanks for giving us the link...I want to try this, but I haven't a sweetie pie assistant gardener like yours! It sure did look like fun and what a great experience for your daughter.

    Have a good week~~gail

  15. Great post, Catherine and thanks for the link. Your little helpers had fun I'm sure!

  16. Hi Catherine. What a wonderful idea. I never knew there was a place you could order caterpillars from and watch the entire process. I think it would be fascinating not only for kids but for adults as well! I know I would enjoy it. Kudos to you for finding it and sharing the experience with your girls and us! You can never have too many butterflies in the garden, right?! I saw my first Western Tiger Swallowtail yesterday but I haven't seen the Painted Ladies yet.

  17. sweet bay - We actually saw a couple of Painted Ladies yesterday, I wonder if they were the ones we released.

    Heather - It's fun isn't it? Just amazing to see the whole process happen.

    Shady Gardener - Thanks! I love trying these types of projects with my girls.

    Darla - I was thinking we'd try that too. I hope you are able to watch more caterpillars grow into butterflies.

    Gail - Yes, I'm lucky to have such good helpers :)

    Lynn - Thanks. It'll be fun to try it again next year too.

    Kathleen - Isn't it neat that you can do this? I think it's such a great idea. How lucky to be seeing Swallowtails. Mostly just the Cabbage Whites so far here.

  18. The girls are very cute Catherine and what a very long lasting gift to them and the gardens.


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