Acquired: Bred invertebrate myself
Posted Aug 09, 2015
I have loved butterflies since I was a kid, when I started catching them and collecting them at my grandparent's place in the summer out in the country. Monarchs have always been my favorite butterfly. Eventually, I worked at a place that had a field behind it. In this field grew milkweed. I started going outside and closely looking it over, knowing that that is the preferred food of Monarch butterfly caterpillars. Eventually, I started to find some, (I still remember how absolutely thrilled I was!) and thus began my daughter's and my adventure in raising and releasing Monarch butterflies. She was five or six years old at the time. Because I was homeschooling her, I decided that this would be an excellent science lesson. and, as I said, I love Monarchs. I carefully removed the caterpillars and picked several leaves off of the plants, putting them into a plastic bag, which I refrigerated to keep the leaves edible, to make sure the caterpillars had a steady food supply. I set them up in an aquarium in my room. I would put fresh leaves in as necessary, removing the withered ones. I'd also clean out the aquarium on a regular basis, because those caterpillars are voracious eaters, and, as a consequence, they produce a lot of poop! So she and I would watch them grow. When they were getting close to making their chrysalis, if I happened to catch them at the right time, I'd hang them from my lampshade, and my daughter and I would watch the caterpillar transform itself from a caterpillar to a chrysalis. We'd then keep an eye on the chrysalis, watching it go from being green to clear with the butterfly being easily seen inside of the chrysalis. We'd then watch as the butterfly broke free of the chrysalis. It would pump its abdomen rhythmically, filling the veins in its wings with the fluid necessary to unfurl them so the butterfly could fly. Once this was accomplished, we normally did not keep them as pets for very long, although we did do so occasionally, feeding them sugar water. Usually, however, we'd release them at night, to go and live and make more Monarchs. We did this every summer for several years. I highly, highly, highly, recommend this activity for people who want to teach their children some valuable science, as well as about conservation. I also recommend this activity for people who want to see the Monarch proliferate, as their numbers have been dwindling. Just make sure that you are willing to put in the time and the dedication necessary to make sure that the caterpillars have enough fresh leaves and that you keep their house clean, and that you keep an eye on them so you know when they are ready to fly!