As children, many of us learn about the fascinating transformation by which a caterpillar develops into a beautiful butterfly. To grow into an adult butterfly, they go through 4 stages. First as an egg, then a larva (caterpillar), next as a pupa, and finally as a butterfly, which is adulthood.
This life cycle can take a month to year, but it usually depends on the type of butterfly. Introducing the metamorphic life cycle of moths and butterflies to your children will surely enhance their knowledge and interest in the natural world and increase their awareness of the local environment.
This activity will take 20 to 30 minutes to set up.
Things that you need for the activity:
- Glass Jar
- Magnifying Glass
- A Small Stick
How To Do It:
1. Look for caterpillars carefully around your garden or a park nearby. Looking for damaged leaves may give you an idea as to where caterpillars may be. Caterpillars love to stay put on leafy plants.
2. When your kids have found some caterpillars, put them in the glass jar. If your children don’t want to use their fingers to pick them up, use the small stick.
Top Tip: Be aware of hairy caterpillars as their hairs might irritate your skin.
3. Take some leaves from the plant where you found the caterpillars and put them in the jar as well, this to give the caterpillars some food. Using leaves from where they were found is important as some caterpillars only like one type of food. Keep checking that the caterpillars have enough food and that it is fresh.
4. Now you just need to wait and watch. Remember, patience is a virtue!
5. As time goes by, the caterpillars should get bigger and their skin might even begin to shed. You can observe the transformation by looking at the jar using a magnifying glass.
Top Tip: Take the lid of the jar off once day for a few minutes to allow fresh air to circulate the jar.
6. After a while, the caterpillars will turn into a pupa, which for caterpillars/butterflies is called a chrysalis. They might look dead on the outside, but they’re not, just keep waiting patiently. (You can tell your kids that they’re sleeping because they’ve had too much fun!)
7. Sooner or later, each chrysalis will hatch into a beautiful butterfly or moth, this usually takes around 11-14 days, but may take longer. When this time comes, your children can inspect their body structure, draw them and then free them into the garden.
Things to Remember:
Sometimes a caterpillar will not turn into a pupa, but might turn into a mass of worms. These are the larvae of parasitic insects, such as ichneumon flies, which inject their eggs into caterpillars.
Interesting Facts about Caterpillars:
• In the Guinness World Records, the largest butterfly is the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing (Omithoptera Alexandrae) of Papua New Guinea. It has an enormous wingspan of 28 centimetres (11 inches) and weighs over 25 grams, that’s about the same weight as a slice of bread!
• Butterflies can only see red, green, and yellow.
• There are about 24,000 species of butterflies, and about 140,000 species of moth have been counted all over the world.
• Caterpillars do not have bones, they have over 1,000 muscles in which they use to quickly move from place to place.