From caterpillars to butterflies again!

It's been a while since I've updated this blog - life has been busy, but now my youngest is a preschooler and very enthusiastic every time I mention something science-related, I've been going back through my blog to remind myself of all the fun things I tried with his brother that he can do too.  I'll also get round to writing about some of the STEM activities the big one (in reception at school) has tried at home too.

The little one asked if we could grow butterflies again, so I bought a tub of painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore.  Last time round, he was only vaguely interested, but this time he told everyone who would listen about his caterpillars that were going to turn into butterflies after they'd been in a chrysalis!  After my initial doubts as none of the caterpillars seemed to move for the first day, it turned out he was right and all five started growing very rapidly.  He named them Meg, Bess, Tess, Jess and Cress - I quite liked his literary reference (to the Meg and Mog story by Helen Nicoll and Jan PieĊ„kowski, although in the story only the latter four change from witches to mice, with Meg's spell going wrong responsible for the transformation!).

Tiny caterpillars

Almost all the food had gone by the time - over the space of just over 24 hours - all five became chrysalids.  I carefully transferred them to the same net we used last time, and the boys lost interest after a few days of checking.  One morning, however, we could hear a very quiet noise and they checked to find two butterflies had emerged.  The next day one more appeared and they both watched as another chrysalis wriggled around before a fourth butterfly appeared.  We gave them fruit in the net, and released the first two as we weren't sure the fifth was going to appear.  Whilst my youngest son had been keen on the butterflies to this point, after one landed on him briefly he decided he didn't like them being on him.  His brother, however, handled them really gently and they kept returning to his hands.  He enjoyed looking at them really closely, seeing their eyes and proboscis which they use to drink nectar.

Painted lady butterflies

The final butterfly did emerge, a full two days after the first (apparently this was Meg).  We attempted to release the last three together, but one just didn't want to go so the boys suggested bringing it back inside for the night.  When we went to release it, another painted lady fluttered into our garden!  We were pretty sure it was one of ours as we've never spotted a painted lady in our garden since our last ones took flight.  The fifth butterfly then flew off in the same direction, a lovely memorable ending to this year's butterfly journey!