If you’re an elementary school science teacher or a mom to curious little kids, you might already know that witnessing a caterpillar turning into a butterfly is one of the most awe-inspiring experiences that a young kid can have. Of course, it’s important that you ensure, as much as you can, that this entire process goes off without a hitch. Read on for some guidelines for taking care of a butterfly cocoon:
- Know the process. Apart from letting your kids witness the transformation on themselves, it’s also a good idea to ground their experience with educational background. You could let the kids draw or take note of their observations about the caterpillar. Let them continue their observations until the caterpillar finally transforms into a butterfly.
Research with your kids about the life cycle of a butterfly, and you could also use this as a springboard to teach about the life cycles of other animals. You could also read to them stories that have something to do with caterpillars turning into butterflies: one notable example is “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. This way, the kids will also gain literary appreciation.
- Prepare the environment for the cocoon. Caterpillars spin cocoons for themselves using a silk-like substance coming from their bodies. The caterpillar attaches this cocoon to a leaf or twig and wraps its body around it. That’s why it’s best that you provide a hanging stick or branch where the cocoon could be attached to. The best way is to have the caterpillar live on an indoor plant. You could also contain the caterpillar inside a medium-sized cage, with vertical branches inside.
- Do not disturb the cocoon. Once the insect is inside the cocoon, there’s actually nothing else that need to be done. The best way is to let everybody know that nobody should touch the cocoon; the butterfly is being “formed” inside and if anybody disturbs it, chances are, she won’t be able to be formed properly. You could, however, mist the surroundings of the cocoon (but not the cocoon itself) to ensure proper humidity. This phase of the caterpillar’s life is a great opportunity to teach kids about patience.
- If the cocoon falls off its twig, don’t panic! The insect is still safe and it will still emerge as a butterfly soon enough. The best way is to leave it alone. Do not attempt to put it back to its original place.
- Know when the butterfly will emerge from the cocoon. The insect usually stays inside the cocoon for 10 to 14 days. The day just before the butterfly emerges, the cocoon will turn either dark, or very clear. Expect the butterfly to come out in the early morning, and be sure to have your kids at hand to witness this event! This will happen very fast, so be ready.
Once the butterfly emerges, its wings will be soft and shriveled. She will later on extend her wings to its normal size, but be careful not to touch it yet! Her wings are still very soft and fragile. She will need a vertical surface to perch on until her wings become firm. You could serve her with a little water mixed with a bit of sugar.
Once the butterfly emerges and its wings become strong enough, the next part is to let her go out into the garden. Your kids will certainly appreciate the lesson on transformation, patience, and letting go. Good luck!