Tuesday, April 4, 2017

4-H Butter Fly Emergence Project: Part 1

We are not members of 4-H, but they offer some wonderful resources to local teachers and schools, one of them is a yearly project learning about science and life cycles.  Typically it involves incubating fertilized chicken eggs and getting to see them hatch and later returning the baby chicks to 4-H.  Awesome, right?  We were so excited to participate for the first time with our boys (and homeschool) this year, and then the bird flu happened in neighboring states and sadly 4-H was not able to get the eggs from their distributor.  In an effort to still offer something to those who had signed up to incubate eggs, the idea of butterflies was brought to the table.  I asked the boys how they felt about it and naturally they were thrilled!  So while several teachers dropped out of the project as they were not interested in butterflies, we carried on and here we are.

While I'm absolutely NOT a caterpillar or butterfly expert, and am learning right alongside of the boys with this one, I thought it would be fun to document our findings here.

The caterpillars were shipped to the agricultural extension on Wednesday, March 29th and we picked them up at our information meeting the afternoon of March 30th.

For the sake of tracking and observing, we will say that these pictures taken on Friday March 31st are day 3 for the caterpillars growth.  They are much smaller than I was expecting, but I'm told they grow very fast.  These are "Painted Lady Butterflies" and like all butterflies, their life cycle is comprised of 3 stages-- Larval stage which lasts 7-10 days (caterpillar), Pupal stage another 7-10 days (chrysalis) and adult stage which is is 2-3 weeks (butterfly).   There are 17,000 different species of butterflies and the Painted Lady butterfly is found on every continent except Antartica and Australia.

Day 3 Photos--

Our 12 caterpillars.  We've numbered the bottoms of the cups to track them and observe them.  The beige "goop" is their food.  The majority of their eating in their life is done as a caterpillar.  They are getting all of their nutrients for growth now, and once they are butterflies they only eat to sustain energy.

To my knowledge, the little sand looking granules in the photos is frass.  Frass is the caterpillar word for poop.  Naturally one of my children who is prone to potty humor, loved learning about this part.

Later on we will begin to see black specks in the cups which is from them molting.  They will molt and shed their exoskeleton up to 5 times before they form their chrysalis.   

So far, we just know that they like light, warmth and they eat a lot. 

Day 4 Photos--

Day 5 Photos--

So all of the photos thus far the last few days have been of only caterpillar number 1 and number 2.  Taking pictures of the same caterpillars each day gives a more precise picture of growth and what's happening.  But today, our biggest caterpillar number 5 has silk all around it and it looks super interesting.  None of the others look like this-- it's almost like a spider web around it.  Wondering if caterpillar number 5 may actually be older than the others simply because of it's size and the amount of silk it has produced.  Maybe we'll start seeing the chrysalis in a few days?

Day 6 Photos--
Oops!  My apologies, no photos on this day.

Day 7 Photos--

So now that we are a week into this project, I'm realizing that I randomly picked the smallest two caterpillars to photo for progress.  Yep, caterpillars 1 and 2, which I have been following all week, are indeed the tiniest of the bunch.  I can still see that they have grown since the first pictures, just not as much or as fast as some of the others.  Hopefully they develop and grow soon because here is what numbers 5 and 6 look like currently.

.... More photos to come in future "parts" of our project.  Channeling my inner Ms. Frizzle!

** You can check out our Part 2 Post over here.

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