Kaelyn is very fascinated with the life cycle of butterflies and frogs. Back at the beginning of the school year, her class had tadpoles in their classroom and they got to watch them turn into frogs over the next few weeks. One day it dawned on me that we could probably find a butterfly garden somewhere so that she could watch caterpillars go through their life cycle. I went on Amazon and quickly found what I was looking for. I was so excited that I had a hard time waiting to get it for her but we waited and then got it for her for Easter. It was actually fun for all of us and I think I enjoyed it just about as much as Kaelyn did.
All that came with the kit was the mesh "house", a feeding "pipette", and some instructions. There was also a voucher for five caterpillars. We went online and redeemed the code on the voucher, put in a shipping address, paid a small shipping fee then waited for our live caterpillars to be shipped to us.
We thought they were NEVER going to get here - well, mostly Kaelyn thought that because she was so anxious to get them. In all reality, it was maybe 10 days from the time we placed the order and that was counting a weekend.
They finally arrived. There were five of them along with their food in a little cup . I couldn't tell what the "food" was but it looked a little weird. They weren't very pretty caterpillars as far as caterpillars go. Not that I've ever really thought of caterpillars as particularly pretty creatures but I have seen some that were more colorful than these were.
Within a week of the caterpillars arriving, several of them were already in their chrysalides.
After all the caterpillars had been in their chrysalides for a couple days, it was time to transfer them into the butterfly garden.
We took the lid off and removed the paper that the caterpillars had attached themselves too.
I used a safety pin to attach the paper to the mesh of the garden.
After the caterpillars had been in the chrysalides for several days, you could partially see the patterns and outline of their wings through the chrysalis.
We watched them closely every day throughout each phase.
Within about five days of moving them over, the butterflies came out of the chrysalides. This picture above was taken when all of the butterflies except for one had come out.
Watching the butterflies come out.
To feed the butterflies, we made a mix of sugar and water. We put fresh flowers in the garden every day or two and used the pipette to sprinkle the mixture on the flowers.
(The pipette - as the instructions called it - was like a miniature eye-dropper or medicine dispenser.)
There is one butterfly off to the right on the wall and another down by the flowers. You could see their long tongues (the scientific word for that is proboscis) getting the nectar and sugar water from the flowers. It was really cool to watch.
This picture was taken as the last butterfly was pushing its way out of it's chrysalis.
(He was a little later than the other four.)
Somewhere during this cycle, Kaelyn and I were having a discussion about death and how a Christian can go to heaven. This concept can be difficult for any kid but it's especially difficult for autistic kids to comprehend because they think so literally and struggle to understand the abstract. I was able to talk about how even though it seemed like the caterpillar was gone when it went into the chrysalis, it came back with a different body. That really seemed to help her with the concept of our bodies dying and getting new bodies in heaven.
Megan and Kaelyn looking at the butterflies.
The instructions said that besides the sugar water mix, you could also cut up slices of oranges or watermelon and put them in the garden. I didn't have any watermelon but we had some oranges. They seemed to LOVE the oranges. Whenever I would put fresh slices in, they would land on those and eat from those the most. Sometimes we would go over and look and there would be three or four of them on the orange slice. I would have never thought about the fact that butterflies can "drink" from oranges.
These butterflies were painted lady butterflies. They actually got prettier and more colorful the longer we had them. We kept them just under a week after they were butterflies but it seemed like each day they became more colorful, especially when we saw them with their wings open.
Kaelyn called them our "flappy wings". She thought that it was funny how we could be sitting in the living room and here their wings fluttering when they flew around.
We had decided that when it was time to let them go, we would take them over near a local park in town. There is a little butterfly garden area across the field from the park where there are all kinds of flowers and plants. The area was designed to be conducive to butterfly, uh, life I guess you would say.
Kaelyn was NOT ready to let them go so I did the adult/parent thing of explaining that if we didn't let them go, they would probably die within a few days. Of course she didn't want to see them die so that made her decision a bit easier. Underneath though, I felt sad to see them go to.
They were just like pets to her. In the car, on the way over to let them go, I caught her kissing the outside of the butterfly house. She talked to them in a voice like you would use with a little kid or pet. She explained to them that they were going to love their new home and all the flowers --- and I turned my head toward the window so that she or Kevin wouldn't see me tear up. She was so sweet and she loved them so much even though they were "just" butterflies and we had only had them a few weeks total.
I don't think I had ever really noticed this sign before but it says, "This garden provides resources that increase the world's population of butterflies." It's a "certified butterfly garden" or so says the sign.
One of the five butterflies flew right out on its own and one just briefly lit on her hand but the other three crawled onto her hands and sat for a few seconds before they flew off. It was a great way to send them off. (The instructions that came with them said that they often sit on little hands or faces before flying off.)
There is one resting on her fingers in this picture. She would then slowly pull her hand out and they would stay on her hand for a bit.
Another one out of the "house".
I was happy that they stayed on her hands long enough for Kevin to get pictures.
After we had let them all go, she walked around the small area talking to them even though we didn't see any of them right away. She was quietly saying, "Are you guys just exploring your new home? Do you like your new home?" We walked over to the park to let her play for a few minutes (to make us forget about our sad hearts) and we saw one of them out in the field flying from clover to clover.
P.S. That night, we went to Red Lobster for a special meal since Mother's Day was the next day. It had started raining in the evening and was pouring like crazy. Kaelyn mentioned two or three times that she was so worried about the butterflies and she wondered if they would be okay. So we googled where butterflies go in the rain and found out that they hide under leaves and flowers when it rains. I told her the butterflies use the leaves like big umbrellas and she was very relieved. She wishes that "we could see our flappy wings again sometime". We enjoyed them so much that I thought maybe we would get some caterpillars every spring but I'm not sure my mommy's heart can handle her tender, little girl's heart every year. :-)