Friday, February 8, 2013

Butterfly Science Project

Declan has been working on his first live Science project this past month. We are watching the metamorphosis of Painted Lady Butterflies. It's not a required assignment with Setons, but it's something he wanted to do.

A few fun facts about the Painted Lady Butterfly:
  • She can lay up to 500 eggs.
  • She is the most common butterfly in the world.
  • She tastes with her feet.
  • She has, ready for this....10,000 eyes. Yes, you read that correctly.
  • She breathes through her abdomen (She doesn't have a nose).
  • She can travel 1,000 miles in her lifetime. 
  • They will approximately 2-4 weeks.
The video below is what they looked like three days after we got them.

I have never seen a caterpillar chrysalis (cocoon) before, much less watched their metamorphosis, so I was pretty excited to do this experiment as well. Approximately 10 days with the caterpillars, they nearly doubled in size. From these tiny, hairy worm looking things, to an inch long, fuzzy looking caterpillars. What's really interesting is how, like spiders, they make silken webs, by moving their heads back and forth. They lay in and on the webs. The video below shows one caterpillar already hanging from the lid, ready to turn into a chrysalis, while another is crawling up the jar. You can see all the silk they've spun thus far. The little brownish balls are their food. Somehow they carry it up into the silk. Currently three are in the beginning chrysalis phase with two soon to join.

I cannot believe how fast they change into a cocoon. Once they are hanging upside down, they become very still and slowly this shell creeps up their body, starting at their heads. After a few hours, they begin to spin silk from their mouths, slowly covering their face and making their way up to their butt. This process took place in an hours time or less. The picture below is hard to see what I'm referring to, because of all the silk on the container, but you get the idea. The longer caterpillar on the left still has its fuzz and has yet to spin its silken mask, where as the one on the right is in the early chrysalis phase.

It's pretty hard to see in the above picture, but the caterpillar directly behind the chrysalis, on the lid, kept coming near the cocoon and out of nowhere, it started shaking violently (the cocoon). This is a natural instinct to ward off predators. The kids got a kick out of it. Below is a close up. You really get and appreciation for the silk webbing and the beginning stage of the cocoon. It will change dramatically in the next few hours.

On January 30th, all five caterpillars were in their cocoons so it was time to transfer them to their habitat. Getting them out of the jar was a bit tricky. One of the caterpillars chewed a huge hole in the paper lid, so I had to be really careful not to rip it anymore than it already was. Plus, a few of the cocoons were stuck in the silk webbing, which was very stiff, unlike a spider web. I was so afraid one would fall off, but they were all surprisingly well attached to the paper lid.

I carefully pinned the paper inside the habitat and only stuck myself once! The picture above really shows how shiny the cocoons are. The texture of the cocoons is surprisingly hard, not at all what I expected. I'm not sure the caterpillar cocoon on the bottom right will survive. It's the only one that did not fully enter the cocoon. That fuzz sticking out from the top is it's tail. Poor little guy, I hope he survives, for the kids sake.

 I hung the habitat in the coroner of our classroom, out of little hands reach. With any luck, we should see the first butterfly emerging a week from Wednesday!

On February 4, the first two butterflies emerged from their cocoons. The first happened before we were awake, so we didn't get to see the event. However I happened to be standing by the habitat when I noticed another cocoon moving, I quickly grabbed my phone and filmed the second butterfly emerging. It's not the best angel, the mess didn't allow for good camera viewing.

This is Lady, named by Declan. He/She was our first addition. In the picture above, her wings are just about dried out and she was flapping them for the kids. They all squealed with excitement! The picture below was when she first emerged and her wings were drying. That red stuff scared the kids. They thought it was hurt and bleeding. Actually, it's stored waste, like, pretty gross if you ask me.

All five butterflies have emerged, as of Wednesday! They are all doing great and love to sit on the orange slices we put in their habitat. I found it interesting that the last three were a completely different shape from the first two. Lady and Lucky were bigger and have fuller wings, were as the other three are smaller and their wings are shaped differently. I'm wondering if there may be a few females in the group. Since it's so cold here. We can't really let them go, so maybe some will mate and breed? This has been a fun experiment for all the kids. I highly recommend buying the kit for those of you who home school.  It's totally worth it!! Here are a few more pictures of the butterflies. Enjoy!

This is Lucky, I think!

Even Wookie was interested in the butterflies.

All 5 butterflies!

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