Saturday, April 23, 2016

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Raising Painted Lady Butterflies and Watching them Hatch!

We absolutely love growing butterflies--it is one of our favorite spring activities!  Every time we do it, we hope to be able to see the butterflies actually "hatch," or break out of their chrysalises!  Sometimes we catch it, and sometimes we don't!  I thought I'd share some pictures from the Painted Ladies life cycle, how you know when they're about to hatch or break out of their chrysalis, and a video of one of them actually climbing out of the chrysalis for you!  You can use this as you plan your own butterfly growing experiences!

You can order Painted Lady Butterfly caterpillars from several companies--I'll put Amazon affiliate links at the bottom of this post.  They usually arrive about 1-2 centimeters long in a little ventilated cup full of food.

For about a week these caterpillars are the perfect pet: they require absolutely no care, but you can watch them grow and grow and grow!  They will outgrow their skin four times during this "larva" stage.  Each time they will molt or shed their skin.  You will start to see piles of poop and shed skin build up at the bottom of the little cup.  This part of the painted lady life cycle lasts 5-10 days.

After about a week the caterpillar will climb to the top of the cup and use its spinnerets (just below its mouth) to spin a silk pad to attach to the ceiling of the cup with.  Once it attaches, it will hang in a J-shape as it molts one last time into a chrysalis.

Sidenote: Butterflies molt into a chrysalis.  Moths spin a cocoon.

Your instructions usually say to move the chrysalises to a butterfly home after about 2 days.  This is ideal because you don't want to interrupt the amazing change going on inside the chrysalis, but one time we were out of town and were not able to move them until they had been chrysalises for 5 days.  We were very gentle!!  Even though we moved them at the wrong time, both butterflies came out fine!

The chrysalis, or pupa stage, lasts 7-10 days.  I have heard that it is faster when the weather is warmer, but it may just be heresay.  Either way, we have had some caterpillars hatch in exactly 7 days and others take the full 10!  Everyone always wants to know how to tell when the butterflies are getting ready to hatch.  And this time, I actually paid very close attention to the entire process so I could tell you exactly what to watch for!  Of course, yours may develop faster or slower (remember they can be inside the chrysalis for 7-10 days!), but hopefully this will give you an idea what to expect and how to know when it is time for your Painted Lady butterflies to hatch! I know my kids asked me several times a day, "Is it time for the butterflies to come out of the chrysalis yet?"

So how do you know when it is time for a Painted Lady butterfly to hatch?  It's hard to know for sure, but here are my best tips:  Sometime after about 7 days, the chrysalis darkens.  Shortly after that the chrysalis becomes more transparent, and you can see through the chrysalis and even identify spots and patterns on the wings of the butterfly.  At this point, you are down to under 24 hours before your butterfly breaks out of its chrysalis!  I put together this little infographic to help explain it with pictures:

Watching the butterfly actually break out of its chrysalis is incredible!  Here are some pictures from our last set:

And in case you miss it (the whole process only takes about 3-5 minutes!), I made a video for you too!  Every time I see it, I am amazed at the transformation these little insects go through!

If the video doesn't load for you, you can click HERE to watch it at YouTube.

And finally, the Painted Lady Butterfly!  When it emerges, it has wet, folded wings that take hours to stretch out and dry.  It also has to assemble the final pieces of its proboscis so it can eat.  At this point, we usually place an orange wedge in the "butterfly habitat" and watch it for a day or two.  Then we have a "releasing party" where we set it free!

Are you growing Painted Lady butterflies?  I would LOVE to hear about your experiences!!  Feel free to leave me a comment, send me an email, or stop by my PreschoolPowolPackets Facebook page and leave a picture!  You may also want to check out my collection of Cool Facts About Painted Lady Butterflies!  And if you're doing a butterfly theme, try this gorgeous butterfly craft or these fun butterfly songs and fingerplays!

A couple of my blogging friends have written about their Painted Ladies too!  If you want to see their experiences with these butterflies, visit Craftulate and  !

Did you know that on Saturdays the STEAM bloggers bring you a variety of science, teachnology, engineering, art, and math activities?  Check out this week's fun:

Water Cycle Activity Science Discovery Bottle from little Bins for Little Hands
DIY Recycled STEAM Notebook from Handmade Kids Art
Magic Milk | Process Art and Science from The Science Kiddo

Amazon Affiliate Links:

I may share at any of these parties!

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