Sierra is raising painted lady butterflies. I can't help feeling a bit nervous. This is the third time we've tried butterflies over the course of our homeschooling career. The first two times were less than successful.
The first time, the caterpillars made it to their cocoons and we happily transferred them to their butterfly home. We were all very excited. Marina couldn't wait. She decorated the thin board box with rocks and flowers in anticipation. I was so proud of our success. When my mother came over, I decided to show her the future butterflies. I picked up the box.
Now remember I said it was a thin board box? We're talking cereal box thin. Maybe thinner. With big plastic windows for viewing. And Marina had put rocks inside. Not little pebbles, but large fist size rocks. When I lifted the box it collapsed in my grasp and--I cringe even all these years later--I crushed several cocoons. I dropped several notches in the mom polls that day. I think I cried more than Marina did over their loss. Two cocoons were saved, although only one butterfly survived to be released. The other came out with a bum wing. Marina took care of it for the extent of its life.
The second time we did caterpillars, our problem was a little different. One caterpillar was unusually larger than the others. It went into its cocoon a full week before any of the others. I silently urged the other caterpillars to hurry up, but before the last caterpillar climbed to the roof of the special larvae cup, the first butterfly emerged. In the cup. The very small cup with the remains of sticky caterpillar food at the bottom. Because it didn't have room to spread and dry its wings, we ended up with another flightless butterfly. I don't even remember if the other butterflies emerged that time. Marina said one did. It could be they were affected from arriving on a hot day and being stuck in the mailbox since we were out that morning.
After that I vowed I would never do butterflies again because it was too painful for me. But Sierra loves bugs and my sister bought her a kit for her birthday. My sister is much better at this. She's raising monarch caterpillars with her boys. I wouldn't want to be responsible for a monarch with my track record. But we are trying the painted lady butterflies again. This time we have a better enclosure, one of the mesh pop-up habitats. We also have six cats, so keep your fingers crossed for me.
If your child likes bugs, I encourage you to check out What's Bugging You? This blog is done by Dr. Art, who used to work at the Natural History Museum of L.A. when my sister worked there. He is responsible for helping Marina overcome her fear of bugs when she was five and we're happy to find him in the blog world!