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It’s Time for the Butterfly Project!

Fun for “Kids” of alll ages!

The transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly is one of Mother Nature’s most fascinating gifts.

Last summer two Attleboro families watched in wonder as the caterpillars they had collected spun cocoons, which in turn hatched lovely monarch butterflies. They now want to share their experience and encourage you; no matter what age you are to try it for yourself!

Makenzie Killough, 9, recommends this project to families who don’t have pets because it will teach them responsibility for when they do have a pet. “Kids of all ages will learn the parts of the butterfly life cycle," she said.

"It's lots of fun," Aidan Killough, 6, chimed in.

1.  Look for eggs. Monarch butterflies lay only one egg at a time on the bottom of a milkweed leaf, during the third week of August.

Aidan says, “Now is the time to begin looking for caterpillar eggs. You look under milkweed leaves. Milkweed is near a garden or along the road. I looked today and still couldn’t find an egg; I did find some slugs and aphid eggs. We found lots of leaves with big bites in them, too.”

“I have never found an egg but there are pictures in my butterfly book showing what they look like," said7-year-old Olivia Sirard. They are like very small, shiny white pearls.”

Even though these three butterfly egg hunters were unsuccessful last year in finding eggs, they did find loads of caterpillars, which had hatched out of the butterfly eggs.

If you find an egg simply put it in a jar and wait until the caterpillar comes crawling out!

2.  If you don’t find an egg, that’s okay, look for caterpillars, large and small.

Amazingly, Alexa Sirard who was only 3 at the time remembered what they looked like, “They had stripes. White, yellow and black stripes.”

“Wiggly, too,” Aidan added.

3.  Once you have found your caterpillars, you must take good care of them. You don’t have to touch the caterpillar, take the whole leaf with the caterpillar on it.

“I liked watching the caterpillars eat the leaves,” said Elise Sirard, who is 4. 

“They need a habitat, food and water," Olivia Sirard said. "You can use a jar but my dad used an old fish tank of ours.

"We put a small bowl of water and added fresh milkweed leaves everyday," she added. "My dad glue-sticked sticks together so the caterpillars would have fun crawling around."

“It was a massive caterpillar playground!” laughed Makenzie.

Some of the caterpillars made their cocoons right on the sticks, according to the Sirard girls, while others made them on the top of the tank.

Just like cleaning up after a turtle, fish or puppy, you have to clean up after a caterpillar, sort of.

“One problem with the tank was cleaning up the poop," the eldest Sirard sister said. "The caterpillars make a lot of poop. Mom and Daddy had to take turns cleaning the tank!”

The Killough kids used a vase and a jar for our their caterpillars, which included a stick in the jar for the caterpillar to climb, fresh milkweed leaves to eat everyday and a wet paper towel to keep the leaves moist.

“As the caterpillars munch the leaves they get fatter and fatter until they climbed to the top and make their body into a hanging letter J,” Aidan Killough said.

4.  When the caterpillar hangs in a J, it is ready to prepare its stunning pale green, with a ring of gold, cocoon.

“Watching the caterpillar make its cocoon was my favorite part,” Alexa Sirard remembered.

The Killough kids said it was an exciting experience for the entire family. “Our whole family watched the caterpillar go into the green cocoon," Aidan Killough said.

When the cocoon turns black you know that the butterfly is almost ready to come out. The cocoon starts to shake.

"We watched and watched but as soon as we went out, while we weren’t there, the butterfly came out," Aidan said.

“But we did see the next one come out,” Makenzie added. “It was an experience that I will never forget!”

5.  The butterfly emerges.

“It is so cool. The butterfly’s wings are wet so it will sit on your finger until the wings are dry and ready to fly!” concludes Olivia. “All six of our cocoons hatched into butterflies!”

“I would definitely like to bring a caterpillar or cocoon to school if my teacher said I could," said Makenzie.

My classmates would think the butterfly’s life cycle is amazing and they would probably ask me how to do it and where to find the caterpillars."

The five children butterfly reporters hope you will hatch a butterfly yourself!

"It's easy!" said Makenzie.

*Check Wikipedia for photos of monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars.

*The Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens in South Deerfield, MA is a long drive, but well worth it to be in a room with thousands of different varieies of butterflies.

Suzanne Silva August 14, 2011 at 04:48 PM
For the past 15 years I have raised 20-76 Monarch butterflies each year from eggs I have found on milkweed. Once I find the egg I take the leave and place it in a container on top of a moist papertowel. I have found that when first hatched, the caterpillar is so small it is more likely to drown if the leave is in water. I then transfer the caterpiller to a large jar with a moist paper towel on the bottom and a stick for it to climb. Over the top of the jar I put cheese cloth. Each day I add Milkweed leaves and change the papertowel, cleaning the stool droppings with it. I have shared many caterpillars with friends and family to enjoy this awesome experience!
Melissa Riley August 14, 2011 at 08:39 PM
Wow, you are the expert! Do you have any egg or caterpillar pictures that you can post? We never found an egg but we had plenty of caterpillars and no one thought to take a picture!! I do hope more people will try this!!
Reason August 14, 2011 at 11:52 PM
Thanks, I'm sending this to my brother as an activity suggestion for my nieces.
Don Doucette August 15, 2011 at 12:23 AM
Beyond the wonder of fledgeing Monarch butterflies is the excitement of their migration. For a number of years, I pulled product from various Narragansett Bay oil depots and every year toward the fall season, looked forward to waves of Monarchs fluttering over Narragansett Bay waters while passing through the industrial tank farms. Migratory wave after wave - the amazement being that these delicate creatures were flying a great distance to winter in Central/South American climes. And as urbanization continues, we lose our natural milkweed habitat, although it seems to do well in some vacant lots and scrub margins. Don Doucette Attleboro, MA
Melissa Riley August 15, 2011 at 12:58 AM
You're welcome, Reason!! I hope they will try it!! Don, I have never seen the migration. It must be breathtaking!!
Katherine Hebert August 15, 2011 at 01:07 AM
Such a fun and informative project! The Farmer's Daughter on Route 138 in Wakefield, RI has a butterfly house with all kinds of butterflies and moths and very knowledgable guides. They celebrate in mid-September when they let all the butterflies go so they can migrate.
Melissa Riley August 15, 2011 at 02:19 PM
TY! I will encourage all my butterfly lovers to head to Wakefield to visit the Butterfly House and the celebration release! From Attleboro to Wakefield is only a 45-60 minute drive!
Suzanne Silva August 15, 2011 at 10:46 PM
I do have pictures,but not on the computer. I will look for them and scan in. The eggs are very tiny. actually look like a u shaped beehive, one wood see in a kids book and it is pearly white. The size is smaller than the head of a common pin. Very difficult to find if you don't know what you are looking for, but once you do, you'll begin to find them. I actually allow the milkweed to grow in my flower garden. The sweet smelling flowers are beautiful and then I attract the gorgeous Monarchs.
Suzanne Silva August 15, 2011 at 10:51 PM
They say this is beautiful! I have yet to witness it! Monarchs are becoming less and less due to the urbanization. That's why I got involved in hatching eggs in my home and seeing them thru their cycle.
J Martin August 16, 2011 at 02:03 AM
Great activity for kids. Thanks for sharing.
Mary August 18, 2011 at 04:39 PM
I have been collecting Monarch butterfly eggs for quite a few years. I found one about a week ago and it just hatched a couple of days ago. He/she is now very busy eating his/her milkweed leaves. I look forward to seeing him/her hatch into a beautiful butterfly. Mary C.
Melissa Riley August 18, 2011 at 11:31 PM
That's great! I have not, as of yet, found any eggs and that is not from a lack of trying! Has anyone else found any eggs?
Suzanne Silva August 20, 2011 at 01:15 PM
I just found my first egg last night! I have a feeling this is going to be a small year for finding eggs. Usually by this time I have found quite a few.
Melissa Riley August 20, 2011 at 07:11 PM
Lucky you!! I have not found a single egg but I have a new milkweed spot! :)
Melissa Riley August 26, 2011 at 09:21 PM
The Monarchs are in Attleboro!!! I have a nursery full of 10 butterfly eggs!!! I gave 2 of my teeny caterpillars away!! Start hunting! :)
Suzanne Silva August 26, 2011 at 11:37 PM
You found some eggs!!!

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