In our family, for our birthdays, we get to pick out our own gift.   We took Caleb to a game store (hoping he would pick out a fun family board game), but within 5 seconds of being in the store was drawn like a mosquito to a lightbulb to the home Praying Mantis growing kit.  After some negotiation, we were able to talk him down to a butterfly kit instead. 

After shelling out $20, we found out when we got home, that the caterpillars are sold separately, and we had actually bought a $20 butterfly cage… Somewhat disappointed, we neglected purchasing the caterpillars for a few weeks because we had several vacations to Sequim and Ocean Shores.  But a few weeks later, we finally decided it was time to make the big purchase.  We ordered the live caterpillars. 

They arrived within a week in a little jar full of a peanut-butter type substance.

Caterpillars 2008-10-11 003

The package gave a rough timeline for the butterfly life-cycle.  After one-week cocoons form.  After another week, they turn into butterflies.  Sure enough, after a week, the caterpillars hardened and turned into cocoons.  I always expected that they would spin a cocoon around themselves… but their skin/fur just hardened up.  It was as if their skin just got really crusty…  Then we had to carefully remove them from the caterpillar jar to our $20 butterfly mansion…

Caterpillars 2008-10-14 001  Caterpillars Pupate 2008-10-14 003

Every day, Caleb would look at the cocoons to see if they have “hatched”.  He spritzed them with water as instructed.  After a week, we were wondering if they had just died inside the cocoons because we missed a few days of spritzing.  About a week and a half later, Caleb came running down stairs yelling that the butterflies were coming out!

Caterpillars into Butterflies 2008-10-24 006

Within a day, all of the cocoons had produced butterflies.  They didn’t seem to fly very well, but it could have been the constricted cage.  There was also this red stain (that presumably came from the butterfly).  It was kind of like butterfly blood that was all over the place.  I think it was some liquid that they expel once they emerge from the cocoon…

Caterpillars into Butterflies 2008-10-24 004

Tenille made a little cocktail of brown sugar water and soaked a cottonball in the solution.  Now and then the butterflies would land on the cotton ball and let down a straw like contraption from its mouth to suck up the sugar water.

After a few weeks, we were approaching the end of the butterfly life-cycle.  Tenille coaxed Caleb into letting them fly free into the November air. 

Although Caleb still probably thinks that these butterflies are flying around somewhere in our neighborhood, it did give me an appreciation for the amount of work it must be to upkeep a butterfly exhibit.  Some of them have thousand of butterflies.  These butterflies need to be constantly replenished which means that there are probably thousands of cocoons somewhere baking for the next batch of butterflies.

After it was all said and done, was it worth $30?  I think so… 

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