Last Christmas, my three kids were the lucky recipients of a Live Butterfly Garden. A Butterfly Garden—if you who don't know—is a kit that comes with a butterfly cage (pictured above) and a little dropper. Also included is an envelope that you mail into the company whenever you're ready to receive your hotel guests. A few years ago, I might have thought the concept to be a bit silly. After all as a child, I would roam the meadows of western PA in the spring and summer and bring home hundreds of monarch butterfly caterpillars. They hatched for weeks on end right by my bed side in a mason jar...free entertainment. However that was the last time I can remember finding a monarch caterpillar or any caterpillar that turns into more than an ugly moth (sorry moths...but really).
So being as this is 2008 and our part of metropolitan Ohio seems to be caterpillarless of the butterfly sort, the mail order caterpillars arrived in a little plastic jar. And boy were they small to start. Amazingly, they doubled in size almost daily as they ate the provided food caked to the bottom of the jar. Then after stuffing themselves silly, they formed chrysalides. Next, we gently transferred them to the main suite/butterfly garden. The box stated that butterflies will emerge in 7-10 days after forming chrysalides, but it took ours a good 2 weeks plus. Believe me I was sweating it out, thinking how I would explain defective caterpillars to my children should they fail to hatch.
Last Friday morning, between waffles and dressing for school, our first Painted Lady butterfly emerged. I knew it would be one after another after that, so I let my 3rd grader and kindergartner bring the garden to school to watch the remaining transform among their classmates. Good timing butterflies and thank you so much for not sleeping forever.
Yesterday, I suggested we let the butterflies go free. The box mentioned that the butterflies only have a lifespan of 2-4 weeks after their metamorphis. I definitely wanted my kids to see their winged creatures fly off into the sunset rather than finding them on the bottom of butterfly garden. So with a little coaxing, we all agreed that the butterflies needed to explore the world. We ended up with five beautiful butterflies to release. This was very exciting for all.