Monarch Season

met⋅a⋅mor⋅pho⋅sis

–noun, plural -ses 
  Biology. a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly
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There are few things more magical than watching a caterpillar turn into a chrysalis and then a butterfly.   This is a great time of year to find monarch caterpillars on milkweed!  Not only is it fascinating to observe metamorphosis, it is a great opportunity to have your child create some fantastic artwork.

Take your child to a park, or a farm, or even look in the weeds by your local gas station and search for some milkweed.  (See photo below.)  Look carefully on the plants, and there’s a good chance you’ll find a Monarch caterpillar like the one my daughter is watching at in the photo at the top of this page.  Carefully take the caterpillar and plenty of milkweed with you and put them in a large see-through container.  We used an old plastic pretzel container, but a large jar or Tupperware container would work too.   Just make sure you punch air holes!  I put the milkweed in a little vase with water to keep it alive, but a friend told me you can put the leaves between damp paper towels and keep them in the fridge, getting them out when you need fresh ones. 

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Last year, I planted milkweed in our garden in hopes of getting caterpillars right in our own backyard and it worked!  Plant some this fall or next spring if you want your own butterfly garden.  It’s a great way to help the butterfly population.

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Once you have your caterpillar, all you have to do is make sure it has plenty of leaves to eat.  Occasionally, have your child dump out the caterpillar poop, of which there is a surprising amount.  Get out your child’s science notebook or just some paper and ask them to draw the caterpillar and the milkweed.  When it is ready to form a chrysalis, the caterpillar will hang upside down and look like the letter J.  They can draw that, the chrysalis, and finally, the beautiful  butterfly that emerges!   Have them write the word metamorphosis in their notebooks. (It’s a great word.)

A few years ago, my kids and I were lucky enough to see the caterpillar turn into a chrysalis.  It only takes a few seconds and is easy to miss, but it is truely amazing.  If you and your child are lucky and patient, you may see it too.  If you miss it, look on line and you can probably find a slow motion video of it.  You can also look up a picture of a Monarch’s egg.

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There’s nothing like taking the lid off your butterfly house and watching your Monarch soar away.  It’s a great moment to share with your own little caterpillar.

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2 Responses to “Monarch Season”

  1. Liz Burger Says:

    Liz!!
    How fun that you are doing this for the Hot Mama websight. I had no idea. I just happened to check out the sight tonight and was going through all the different “Mamas” and saw you! Great job and what good ideas you have. How fun for you and the kids.
    See you soon,
    Liz B.

  2. A Very Hungry Caterpillar Project « Creative Mama Says:

    […] also a great way to teach them about metamorphosis.   Have […]

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