Monday, March 12, 2007

Butterflies in a Bowl - Part I

A punch bowl. No kidding. I don't have a butterfly house, so I used my punch bowl and stretched pantyhose over the top.
You may recall that ten days ago, Mom and I went to the Ft. Wayne Home and Garden Show and we purchased caterpillars that will turn into Painted Lady butterflies. Both of mine have attached themselves to the paper in the lid of the little plastic Solo cup, to begin the chrysalis stage. That was my cue to remove the paper and attach it to the top of the butterfly 'house.'

In about ten more days, it will have magically become a butterfly and will wriggle out of the chrysalis and flutter around. Romie suggested we just let them fly around the house, but after seeing how the kitties love to chase butterflies in the garden in the summer, I don't think that would be a good idea. It's too cold to turn them loose outside, so they will live their short lives in the punch bowl.

Life expectancy for a Painted Lady is just two weeks. Their whole purpose in life as an adult is to eat and lay eggs. Then they die. And we wonder what the meaning of life is??

It looks to me like one of the caterpillars is ahead of the other one in development. I can see the chrysalis beginning to form on the one on the right, and it has taken on a slightly different shape. The other one just looks like a caterpillar hanging upside down.

It's amazing what will happen in the next few days. The caterpillar will liquefy and special cells will be signaled by a decrease in the juvenile hormone to begin growing and form the butterfly. A couple of days before the butterfly hatches, you can see the colors of the wings through the chrysalis. In less than three minutes, the butterfly will emerge and begin drinking the liquid that remains in the chrysalis, which will course through the veins in its wrinkled wings and they will smooth out so they can then fly.

If I keep a close watch, I should be able to see all these stages. Once it has completed its metamorphosis into an adult, I hope to find some thistle or hollyhock leaves to feed it so that maybe one of them will lay eggs and start the process all over again.

*Photo of adult Vanessa cardui by Mario Maier


Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Hi Kylee,

What a very special way to observe the birth of a butterfly. I think you're right and should put the butterflies outside otherwise your cats will get them for sure.

I can't wait to see the next stage in this process. Lots of luck with both butterflies to be!

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