Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

A couple months ago we started ordering a weekly box of organic vegetables straight from the farm. Not only are the vegetables healthier, the box is like a weekly surprise package that brought some new dynamics into the meal planning department... but the best thing about organic vegetables (at least for the 3-year-old in this house) is the life that comes with it. Sometimes there is a little snail in the box. Oh the joy! But in the beginning of March there was this little guy, who was spontaneously adopted by us.


When we found the little caterpillar in the box, my daughter asked what that was, and I told her, that it's a caterpillar like in her book and that it will become a butterfly. Maybe we could feed it and watch how that will happen... (The moment I said it, I was like why did I just say this, I got myself in a whole lot of trouble. Should've just put the thing out in the garden...) Of course she was excited about that idea. Well, there we went. Tried to feed the caterpillar with some salad. Didn't work. I prayed and hoped that somehow this will work, because I didn't want to put us through a traumatic experience of watching a caterpillar slowly die in front of us. Heck, I searched the internet and found some great advice. Turned out we have some kind of a moth, anyhow it's a butterfly still. And it eats only fennel (not chocolate cake! Good thing the Very Hungry Caterpillar has a tummy ache after eating that, how else to make clear to your child that chocolate cake won't help your real caterpillar grow! What did you think, Eric?! )


So I put one of the fennels that came with our veggie box and put it in some water, in order to keep the greens fresh. And I build this stylish caterpillar-arium. (two glasses, separated with a lid with a hole to put the fennel stick through and to protect the caterpillar from falling into the water, not airtight so it can breathe)


So after a couple of days of eating A LOT, the caterpillar rested. Changed his "suit" and came out a whole lot bigger... and kept eating on. Than one day Mister Caterpillar was very unrestful. The thing ran around the glass towards the top. I sort of knew that it's probably time for the cocoony part of the experiment. So I looked up some tips online again. And somebody wrote that it's a good idea to put a strip of rough paper in for both the caterpillar to be able to attach the cocoon to it and the butterfly to have something to hold on when it comes out. So that's what I did. Put a piece of rough cardboard in. And we watched. It spun some sort of net for almost 2 days.


And turned to this over night. A cocoon (See the brown thing inside the white net in the top corner of the glass in the above picture). My daughter and my husband thought this was really cool. Than we had guests over and I put it away, so that the wild kids won't run it over. And guess what. I totally knocked the whole thing over myself, duh! My heart stopped for a moment. I prayed another prayer, that please the butterfly will make it. And it did.


On Resurrection Sunday, I was sipping my coffee, and all of sudden I was wondering what's going on with the butterfly. I hadn't looked at it in a few days. We were nearing two weeks of cocoon. And Surprise, surprise! We had a butterfly. On resurrection Sunday. My daughter danced for joy! Her patience had paid off. A butterfly. OUR butterfly.


Well, I tried to take a few shots of it with open wings, which is nearly impossible. It only flies in the dark, and when you turn the light on or use a flash it instantly closes his wings and freezes. So that's all I got. And a few tips for you, if you ever happed to hatch a butterfly:

-keep the glass clean (empty out poo daily) and the food fresh
-avoid water inside the glass, to prevent infections
-don't expose to direct sunlight, bright spot in the room but no direct sunlight is ideal
-feed the caterpillar the plant you found it on
-it will eat a lot, than rest and change "suit". this can happen several times depending on how old your caterpillar is (ours did it only once so it was almost grown-up when we found it)
-don't touch or sqeeze your caterpillar (especially when it has rest days where it's changing 'suits') or the cocoon. if you switch out old food with new, add the new food and wait until the caterpillar climbed over to it. then remove the old dried up plant parts.
-if possible find out with an online search what kind of butterfly you have, some build their cocoon in the dirt, some on the plant, many hang on the highest available spot like ours (you will want to know if you have one that needs dirt in order to prepare for it...)


  1. Oh wow! I was biting my fingernails reading about this experiment, remembering the times when I tried to keep a caterpillar as a "pet" as a child (always results in a dead caterpillar, I'm afraid). But it worked out!! Excellent!

  2. What a fun story! We did the same thing last year and hope to do it again if given the opportunity.

  3. What a fun story! We did the same thing last year and hope to do it again if given the opportunity.


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