You may remember when Monkey and I reared a Lackey moth from a caterpillar we found on a pathway not far from our home back in 2013. I’ve been promising him we’d repeat the exercise ever since, especially as he covered the life cycle of butterflies at school recently. We had the opportunity to try out the Butterfly World from My Living World recently, and it’s been a brilliant experience for us all.
With an Entomologist as a Gramps, my 6 year old Monkey certainly seems to have a love of mini beasts and he’s loved every moment that this set has given us. Butterfly World from My Living World is aimed at children aged 5 years and over, and comes with a pop-up butterfly rearing cage, Jar Cover, Small Plastic Pot & lid, Paint Brush, Informative Guide written by Nick Baker and a Caterpillar Order Form (as these need to be purchased separately.
We read up about rearing butterflies from caterpillars and eagerly awaited the arrival of our Painted Lady caterpillars.
Our caterpillar pot arrived on 23rd May containing 5 Painted Lady caterpillars, artificial food (they eat thistles in the wild), a fitted pad at the top of the pot (where the chrysalis will attach themselves),2 sticky pads to attach the fitted pad to the Butterfly cage when the chrysalis are due to emerge, and another instruction leaflet.
From the Monday to Sunday 29th May our caterpillars just kept eating.
With Monkey checking on their progress, morning, noon and night.
We had 3 extremely hungry caterpillars, 1 that seemed to be eating at his own pace, and 1 tiny caterpillar, definitely the ‘runt of the litter’. Fascinating to watch up close. The information sheets told us that the caterpillars should take 2-3 weeks to turn into the chrysalis stage. We went on holiday on 1st June, leaving our caterpillars munching away and returned on 8th June to a bit of a change! Our 3 hungriest caterpillars had changed into 3 chrysalis.
We had no idea when our caterpillars had begun their adventure and I thought our 2 remaining caterpillars would turn, before I moved them all from the caterpillar pot to the butterfly cage. We’d read up and it recommends not to open the caterpillar pot until the chrysalis are ready to move to avoid germs attacking the caterpillars. But our hand was forced when I came home from the school walk on Monday 13th June to discover our first butterfly was beginning to emerge.
I knew there wasn’t enough room in the caterpillar pod to allow the butterfly to emerge properly. Very carefully I took the lid off the caterpillar pot, put one of the sticky squares on the top of the fitted pad and transferred it and the attached butterfly/chrysalis and attached the pad to the top of the butterfly cage. I put some tissue paper over the caterpillar pot and fixed the lid back on, to keep our remaining caterpillars secure.
I thought Monkey would be gutted to have missed the action, but he was just so excited to see our new house guest.
As the butterflies emerge they release some red meconium liquid, which we found on the bottom of the cage. It’s totally normal and wipes away easily.
The next morning, butterfly number 2 emerged (Tuesday 14th June) again, after I’d taken Monkey to school! I sat transfixed and watched the transformation, so at least I could describe it to Monkey in detail.
I grew up surrounded by insects with my bug hunting Dad, but even so, this whole process still caught my breath.
We’ve now decided that our Painted Lady butterflies are a little shy, as number 3 emerged without warning in the 10 minutes we were upstairs getting ready for school the very next morning. Wednesday 15th June and we had 3 butterflies, one growing caterpillar, and one fatality. In the week we’d been home from our holiday the very smallest caterpillar had died.
We’d read in the booklet that comes with the Butterfly World from My Living World that it was possible to feed the butterflies on a solution of honey and water, soaked into cotton wool pads. We’d followed the instructions and placed the food inside our butterfly cage, but they just weren’t drinking anything. Worried that they’d die, I sent our Guru Gramps an email, what are we doing wrong? His reply, place the cage in the sunlight, the butterflies will warm up and then drink. Bingo, instant success. Monkey and I were both over the moon.
Monkey would check on them constantly, and every morning he’d help me change the pads. He could see the butterflies feeding for himself and he’d helped prepare the solution. A priceless lesson.
Monkey had asked me if we had male or female butterflies, I couldn’t see any difference in their wing patterns, so another email winged its way to Guru Gramps. The reply came back that the females were larger than the males and had a more bulbous abdomen. By my reckoning I thought we had one female and two males.
I came home from a night out on Saturday 18th June and my thoughts were confirmed!
We’d fully intended to release the 3 butterflies and soon as our last caterpillar changed to a chrysalis, but that still hadn’t happened and it had been raining almost constantly. Not ideal weather to release butterflies. Another conversation with Gramps, the butterfly will want to lay her eggs on thistles. There are none to be found on the local hedgerows. The sun had come out on Sunday morning, I explained the situation to Monkey and he made the decision to let his butterflies fly away so they could find some thistles for themselves.
Monkey carried the butterfly cage into the garden and we prepared to release our 3 house guests. It was time to let them go, time to say goodbye.
We watched as each Painted Lady flapped their wings and flew off over the housetops. Monkey stood their waving each one-off in turn. I think the smile shows how much he’s enjoyed the experience of Butterfly World from My Living World, it’s been brilliant.
As I write our last caterpillar is still here, still hasn’t turned, but is moving around a lot less, so hopefully any day now he will begin his journey too. I really hope Monkey doesn’t miss that part, seeing his last caterpillar change into a chrysalis.
I can thoroughly recommend this kit, to help children understand a little more about the life-cycle of a butterfly, to actually see the process up close, it’s worth every penny in my opinion. The Butterfly World from My Living World costs £12.99, you can either find caterpillars in the wild (information is in the leaflet, or buy a caterpillar pot for £8.99). All the details can be found on the Interplay UK website.
If you’ve ever considered this activity, do it! I’ll certainly by buying more caterpillars for Monkey next year so we can start the process again.
disclosure: we were sent the items mentioned in exchange for an honest review