We have an unexpected guest in our house, who has brought along a few friends, and they may all end up just becoming family.
I found some strange looking caterpillars munching on the parsley in our herb garden earlier last month and tossed them away. I was fascinated with their bright colors but wasn't sure if they were good to have around. Afterwards, I did some research online and found out they were butterfly caterpillars! I found an awesome site on raising them and desperately searched the yard to see if I could salvage them but they were gone. I felt terrible knowing that they must have been eaten up by a bird, and I was also bummed at missing the opportunity to let the kids watch it grow into a butterfly.
Well just this week we found another one in the parsley! And boy was he munching away--the parsley was half gone! I was thrilled to share him with the kids--we got an old peanut butter jar, drilled some holes into the top, added some sticks and parsley and welcomed the big guy to his new home.
Soon after transferring the big guy, we noticed another little caterpillar inching (or millimetering) up the side of the jar. This was how small the big guy used to be! They go through a series of moltings and take 2-3 weeks to reach the larger size (also called the roaming stage).
I think it was the second night that we noticed the big guy had attached himself to one of the sticks (they use some of their silk to do this). And then the next night he had wriggled out of his skin and reached the chrysalis stage! For some reason I had always thought they spun a huge cocoon around themselves, but it's cool how there's a new version of themselves waiting beneath each layer of skin. You can just make out the two silk strings he's hanging by in the pictures above and the little ball of skin at the bottom of the jar. From what I've read online it takes about 10 days for the butterfly to emerge and we can't wait to meet him!
The kids are totally fascinated with them (we all are really) and it's been a fun and easy pet to have around. Just this evening Chris and Skyler were picking some fresh parsley to feed the little guy and found three more mini-cats munching on the leaves! So no we have four little babies and a butterfly in the making--I think we're gonna have to find them a bigger home!
For anyone interested in learning more about raising their own caterpillars, check out this cool website that covers all the bases. I see some caterpillar-themed activities coming up soon!