Kids are fascinated with butterflies and learning about them can be a fun experience for them. These interesting insects are found all over the world and play an important role in pollination. One of the greatest ways for kids to learn about and get the most from butterflies is by watching them throughout each of their developmental stages. Allow the kids to raise one at home or in the classroom.
Metamorphosis Of Butterflies In Action
Show kids pictures and read them books about butterflies. Discuss how the butterfly develops through metamorphosis, for instance the first stage of a butterfly’s life begins with the egg. From here the larva, or caterpillar, develops. This is an ideal time to take the kids outdoors, having them pay close attention to the leaves of trees, shrubs, and other plantings in search of a caterpillar. Caterpillars can usually be found feeding on these leafy materials. Some of their favourites include thistles, nettles (approach with care), willows, and honeysuckles.
Make sure the kids look hard, as caterpillars are oftentimes camouflaged, blending into their surroundings. Hopefully, they will be lucky enough to find one, in which case, they can create a habitat for their caterpillar for up close studying and observation.
Find out what species the kids have found by looking it up in a resource book or online. Be sure to collect leaves from the plants with which the caterpillar was found nibbling. Use your resources to help the kids create a suitable environment for their caterpillar. Next, locate a container, such as an aquarium with a lid, or have the kids create one of their own from a plastic bottle or similar object.
Cut the top portion of the bottle off (the neck) and place the leaves and caterpillar inside the bottle. Let the kids add a twig or two as well, or whatever fits the needs of your caterpillar. Cut and place a piece of window screen over the top, securing it with tape. As the kids observe the caterpillar’s behaviour, encourage them to keep a journal using both words and pictures to record their findings or changes.
Eventually, the caterpillar will attach itself to a twig or the top of the container, creating a cocoon. Explain to them that this is the pupa, or chrysalis, stage of its life and that the caterpillar will remain this way until its final stage of metamorphosisan adult butterfly. While still in chrysalis, you may want to open the container and add a wet sponge in a small, shallow dish for the butterfly once it emerges, keeping it moist as needed. (You could wait for the butterfly first, but then you run the risk of having it fly away when you open the container.)
During its chrysalis period, have the kids predict the appearance of their butterfly. Once the butterfly emerges from its cocoon, see which child was the closest. They may be surprised to learn that their butterfly is actually a moth instead. Allow the kids to watch their butterfly for a few days and then release it back into the wild.
Making A Butterfly Garden
Helping the kids create a butterfly garden is another good way for them to watch butterflies in action. To attract butterflies to the garden, choose some of their favourite plants. Butterflies prefer fragrant, bright colours and flowers that provide adequate landing sites. Native plantings are generally best, as they are not only adapted to the area but also to the butterflies. Specific weeds may also be on their menu such as clovers, dandelions and buttercups. Use your resources materials to determine native species in your area as well as the plants they like.
Besides a variety of plants, butterflies need water. In fact, they enjoy gathering in puddles as well as basking in the sun. Therefore, you should provide a shallow dish of water in the butterfly garden. Also, place some flat stones in the sun for them to land on. If desired, you could also provide them with an orange or red-coloured sponge soaked in sugar solution. This helps supplement butterflies when flowers are no longer at their peak.
Butterfly gardens are great places for kids to watch, draw or photograph the various butterfly species that visit. Make sure the garden is located in an area for easy viewing. You may also want to consider taking the kids to a butterfly house. These glass houses are a great way for kids to watch butterflies from all parts of the world.
While there are over 15,000 butterfly species found across the globe, Britain only has about 60 species that include Brimstone, Large White, Peacock, Small Copper, Skipper, and Silver-studded Blue.