|Raise the magnificent monarch butterflies with your kids this summer!
For this project you will need:
a large glass jar (gallon size)
a sturdy twig from a tree
an old nylon
Each summer our family loves to watch the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly! We begin by finding milkweed plants and looking under the
leaves for eggs. We put a ribbon on the plant so we can find it easily again and just observe it daily. Finding the eggs is the hardest part of
the project. If you can't find any, just go on to the next step.
After the eggs have hatched, you will see the larva (caterpillars) crawling on the milkweed and eating the leaves. They are black with orange
and yellow stripes on them.
At this point we usually pick out a couple larva and transfer them to a large glass jar that has a sturdy twig in it. Put in a few milkweed
stems that are covered with leaves. Milkweed is the only leaves that a Monarch larva will eat. You will be amazed at the amount of leaves they
eat each day! We have an old nylon stretched over the top of the jar and secured with a rubber band to keep them from escaping.
The larva climb all over the twig. After 1-2 weeks you will notice they will anchor themselves to the branch and hang upside down like a
letter "J". It begins to spin a cocoon and moves into the pupa stage. It will change colors over the next days and eventually turn almost black
and translucent. If you look closely you can see the orange and yellow colorings inside the pupa when it is close to emerging. They probably hang
in the pupa stage for about 1-2 weeks and just when you have about given up hope, they emerge!
*Be very careful to not move the jar much once the pupa is hanging. It is only attached to the branch by a small thread and if it breaks so
the pupa falls to the ground, it will die. Ours have always chosen to emerge during the day and we have gotten to see each one hatch! It is
absolutely awesome to see them emerge with their wings all folded up. They spread them and allow them to dry. We've always chosen to let them fly
away after watching them a couple hours.
An excellent book for projects like this is Pets in a Jar by Seymour Simon. It costs about $5.99 and has been one of the most used books in
our house! In it you will find how to collect and care for all kinds of pets you can keep in a jar. We have watched tadpoles grow legs and turn
into frogs. We have had pet crickets. Did you know that you can tell the temperature by listening to cricket chirps? You will quickly learn not
to put two males in with one female (the books shows you how to tell them apart) or they will get up on their back legs and fight! Other animals
pets you can collect and observe are ants, earthworms, starfish, praying mantises, water bugs, etc.
These are fun, inexpensive, and easy projects! They have provided a lot of good memories as we learned about creation!