Monday, May 04, 2009


You may have heard. We've undergone a metamorphosis at our house. They arrived in a package on our doorstep, a birthday gift for our 4-year old... 5 caterpillars. Five teeny tiny little guys who were destined to become painted lady butterflies.

Here is my Libby, holding her caterpillars. They're soooo tiny! If you click on the picture you can see them a little better. We literally watched them grow from day to day. In the mornings Libby would run over to her bookshelf and check her caterpillars and drag us in to her room, where we would find ourselves genuinely astonished that she was right, they really had grown overnight. She named them, but you know, it was really hard to tell them apart. So, in the end she had Allie, Aniss, and Ellis. Those 3 names covered the 5 caterpillars. And the name Daisy emerged the day after release. More on that later. She was really thrilled about these caterpillars.

Kay, I'll admit. I don't know how many days later this was, but see how much these guys have grown?! My estimate, this was around day 5.

Okay, day 10 we noticed that the caterpillars were following the rules. They were headed to the top of their little jar, where they were to begin forming their chrysalises. (This is something I learned, a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis, a moth emerges from a cocoon. I'm confident that in second grade, I was incorrectly taught that butterflies come from cocoons.) This picture is Libby, and she's pretending to be a caterpillar. See how her hands and feet are attaching to the ceiling. yep.

Here's a better image of the caterpillars on the lid. They started out so tiny and cute and they got so ... big.

Okay, within 2 days each caterpillar had completely disappeared inside its chrysalis. So, we had the task of removing the lid and pinning it to the inside of Libby's soon-to-be butterfly sanctuary. I don't know if you can tell, but she is REALLY nervous in this picture. We put the fear of chrysalis death in her, when we told her that if they are bumped off the top of the jar it can hurt them. Libby was insistent that daddy be incredibly careful when handling her little babies. Thankfully, he was.

Fast forward. 10 days after forming their chrysalises, the painted ladies emerged. It happened really fast, and all 5 of them emerged within a couple of hours. We got to watch one come out, and it was very exciting! The next few weeks were a flurry of excitement, watching Allie, Aliss and Aniss flit around with their two friends with same names. Xander LOVED seeing the bustle in the sanctuary as the ladies danced about. Libby still ooohs and aaaaaaws when she thinks or talks about them. She developed a real fondness for those little critters. We fed them sliced oranges, and bought them beautiful bright purple carnations to coat the bottom of their "home." Then, we daily squirted sugar water into the flowers, which they ate. And this was really fascinating. We watched the ladies unroll their proboscis (a straw from their mouth) and suck the sugar water or orange juice until they were satisfied, then they'd roll it back up under their "chin" area and move along. What an educational experience! for all of us!

The ladies were to have the potential to live 5 weeks in their habitat in our kitchen. We noticed a loss, and then another. Trouble! We had to have 55 degree weather outside before we could release them. Another loss, and another... within a day. That evening, it was exactly 55 degrees and we headed outside to release the last butterfly from the habitat. Libby and Xander look in on her and get ready to unzip the lid and free their little friend.

Aniss turned out to be a little shy, so we coaxed her onto a stick and said our farewells. Libby was so excited for her to be free, as you can see in the picture below. (don't miss Aniss on the end of the stick!) She danced and cheered, until it was time to leave her butterfly behind. Then the tears started to flow. Poor sweet Libby was heartbroken to lose her last butterfly (she later named her Daisy). Daisy is free, and Libby still mourns her. It's really very sweet. At the thought of her dear Daisy, Libby's face turns sad and she softly whines about how much she misses her. And can we go outside and see if she's come back? Do I think she's still in Omaha? Maybe she went to Chicago?

Daisy, we don't know where you are or what you've been up to, but we miss you. Thanks for coming and showing us the wonder of your metamorphosis. We are amazed all the more at our great God and his creation after we were able to open our home to 5 painted ladies.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to a really great book that we bought to accompany the butterfly habitat. It's called "My, Oh My -- A Butterfly" and it's fantastic. It's a Cat in the Hat book (written to sound and look like a Dr. Seuss, but it's not). This little book is incredibly educational, we learned so much about the life cycle of the butterfly, and found Libby identifying various butterflies at the zoo when we visited the butterfly pavilion, as she had learned about them in this book. It's told in rhyme, is super cute, colorful illustrations... you'll love it.
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Chris said...

How sweet! Thanks for sharing. I'll have to do something like that with D when he is a little older. What a neat experience.

Jessica's Little Women said...

That is a fabulous butterfly habitat. We had one, and it fell apart mid-chrysalis phase. I had to vacuum up the mess since they were robust pottiers, and the chrysalises were accidently vacuumed up as well. So sad. We had to use a canning jar for our future butterfly-raising endeavors.

What a great post. I am so sad that we never had the pleasure of meeting Aniss and company, but your lives are obviously richer for having made their aquaintence!