One of Ella and Zoe's birthday gifts this year was a Butterfly Habitat (we purchased ours from Target for $15 but I think Michaels also sells them). We then ordered the caterpillars online for $5 (super easy) and in about a week we had five tiny Painted Lady Caterpillars delivered right to our mailbox. The caterpillars arrived in a self-contained cup (with a lid), so all we had to do was watch them eat, eat, eat and grow, Grow, GROW!!
They started out being less than a 1/4 inch in length and grew to probably a little more than 2 inches long -- it was pretty amazing to watch. After about 10 days the caterpillars crawled to the top of the cup, hung upside down and started to make their chrysalises. Once all of the caterpillars were snug in their cocoons we pinned the little paper disk they were hanging on to the inside of the butterfly habitat, and then we waited some more.
After another 10 days we noticed a few of the chrysalises had cracks in them, and our first little butterfly made her appearance. The girls named her Lily and she turned out to be the smallest of all the butterflies. Almost a day and a half later the next two caterpillars made their appearances. One of those chrysalises had weird stuff sticking out of it, almost like part of the caterpillar was sticking out, and Ella and Zoe thought it looked like hair. We didn't think he'd make it so when he did the girls named him Harry : ) The third butterfly was named Willy, after Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (I had just told the girls about that movie and they were fixated on how Violet turned into a blueberry). It took another day before the last two butterflies emerged and they were named Tootsie Roll and Grape Juice!!
It was really neat watching the life cycle in action and seeing right before our eyes the transformation from caterpillars to butterflies. Watching the butterflies up close was amazing too. We had seen in books how long their tongues are but to see it right in front of you was extra cool. We kept the butterflies for 2 days and fed them sugar water on flowers (they also like watermelon and oranges but we didn't have any so we stuck with the sugar water). Then on a warm, sunny and kind of windy day we let them go in our backyard.
Carrying the butterfly habitat to one of our flower gardens.
Reaching in the habitat before they flew away.
Zoe holding one on her finger.
Ella holding Lily on her hand.
And yes, after the last butterfly flew away and Zoe did not get another turn to hold one on her hand we had a bit of a meltdown,
and then a lesson on 'Things We Can't Control'. This past weekend though, we were playing out back and three different times
we saw Lily flying around -- we're on the look-out for her now and it continues to be so much fun : )