Thursday, June 21, 2007

Homeschooling topics/website helps....All about "Butterflies!"

Since I am a homeschooling mom that has often times used the "Unit Study" approach to home school my children...I have collected numerous, numerous informational websites on tons of subjects over the course of my 10 yrs of home educating my children.

I felt that since such was the case..that perhaps I just might have something worthy of sharing with other parents wishing to add a new topic of exploration to their home school day/week/month. I thought we'd address the topic of Butterflies!

About 2 yrs ago my oldest daughter became extremely interested in butterflies/entomology and all things "buggy"... after a visit with her grandparents to the University of Florida's Butterfly Rain forest display in Gainesville, at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

While she was away..I took it upon myself to try and find a person located in Florida that was knowledgeable in the raising of native butterfly species, and also would have several varieties of butterfly caterpillars/pupae available for purchase...and could tell me about how to keep the butterflies and caterpillars alive and healthy.

When my daughter arrived back home, we set about ordering a large 4 ft by 4ft screened enclosure off of eBay..the type used as reptile cages to hold iguanas and such.

And we started communications via email with the woman that I had found that had the butterfly caterpillars and pupae available.

We learned that butterflies need a high rate of humidity to keep the pupae healthy.
So we purchased a thermometer that tracks humidity.(available at Walmart)

We also purchased a number of host plants to go inside of the "home made rain forest" that we set up by our back french doors.

We also kept a spritz bottle handy.

Soon thereafter, after setting up our cage, putting newspapers on the bottom of the cage under our host plants.(pentas, parsley,various herbs and other nectar rich flowers)Affixing a feeder area (a small saucer affixed with wire) to a tall piece of driftwood that would serve as our chrysalis hanger.
We ordered our caterpillars and chrysalises.The fun was about to begin!

All summer long we had a wonderful, wonderful experience of watching the caterpillars munch away, then crawling to an area on the cage..sometimes the roof of the cage, sometimes the piece of driftwood we had set up in the cage.

The caterpillars would hang in an "S" shape and then in a matter of a few hours..have developed into a chrysalis.

Then once into chrysalis form... We'd have to make sure that the humidity was maintained at about 75 percent. The chrysalises would get a tiny mist of water twice a day, as would all of the plants in the screen room.

Depending upon the variety of butterfly..some of this went on for anywhere from 14-21 days.

Then hatch out time!

We learned the ways to be able to properly hold a monarch butterfly as well as other varieties of butterflies. And the proper feeding solution for them.

We discovered that yes, butterflies enjoy bananas, but that if the bananas become too ripe, butterflies can get "drunk".... yes, we saw it happen... the poor butterflies would lean sideways a bit and sometimes fall over and have to be rescued or they could die.

We also discovered that they adore a solution made from Gatorade.

Some of the specimens we released... and yes, some of them we kept to mount in shadow frames after they had lived a very full life enjoying plenty of Gatorade solution and host plants.

It was a very rewarding experience that we as a family all enjoyed.
And one that we certainly will be trying again.

In fact we make a point to make sure that alot of the plants/flowers we grow in our yard are both bird and butterfly attractors. Currently we have several passion flower vines that are host to the native Gulf Fritillary..we expect to see those in the next month or so..laying their eggs on the vines.Plus we planted a wildflower garden last October in the yard that has lots of bee and butterfly attracting plants in it...plenty of nectar sources for our "flying flower" friends.

I am sharing with you plenty of websites that can help you and your children to learn about the wonderful world of BUTTERFLIES! ....and maybe you'll want to enjoy an adventure like we did.Enjoy!
where you can buy butterflies from folks that raise them:
lots of info:
differences between butterflies and moths:
butterflies and their host plants:
butterflies and their larva:
Butterflies of North America/a comprehensive list of species with photos:
a unit study that includes anatomy on butterflies,where to find children's books, etc.(and also tells how to pin a butterfly for display):
planning a butterfly garden/host plants:
~The Garden Goose~


Sue said...

Got to love those butterflys! Hey, I tagged you for a game of southern tag, check out my blog for details, hope you play,it's short and sweet!

VA Friend said...

We did a similar unit with my 4 year old last year. She got a butterfly cage for her birthday and we sent away for "Painted Lady" butterfly pupa. She enjoyed watching them go from itty bitty catterpillar to butterfly. She would spend hours just watching them. After keeping the butterflies (4 hatched) for a couple of weeks in the cage we decided to release them. She put her hand in the cage and each one of them would hop on her hand and she would put them on the flowers in our yard. After all were released she could "catch" them again and hold them. They stayed around for a couple of days in our yard and when our 4 year old was outside they seemed to find her. She loved the experience and we are thinking of doing it again this year. She loves all things nature and loves bugs!!

michele said...

I loved your butterfly info and all the websites. I only homeschooled my daughter in kid. and a bit of 1st. grade but it was a wonderful time. Thanks for all the great info.

2 LMZ FARMS said...

that sounds very cool. I couldn't help but laugh at the butterflies getting 'drunk'.lol

2 LMZ FARMS said...

Did you get your email that I sent this morning? About your question, I said yes, I need more info from you on what to do. Let me know if you didn't get the email
Have a good one.

GardenGoose said...

I emailed ya back Laura..hope you got it.

Patty said...

We have had massive amounts of butterflies this year. I homeschooled for 17 years and the best "side effect" of that was learning so many things myself from preparing to teach a certain lesson. Butterflies was a favorite lesson study for us.