For the past couple of months, Delightful, 9, has been reading Apologia science texts for fun. When she read through Zoology I, she exclaimed that she reaaaaaaaaaaaallly wanted to try to hatch a caterpillar into a butterfly. Thankfully, Delightful’s grandmother was able to purchase some Painted Lady caterpillars and a butterfly house at our local teacher store. We had high hopes for our caterpillar-hatching adventure. I’m sad to report, though, that the whole thing was a flop.
At the start of our adventure, we received a cup containing five living, wriggling little caterpillars. Four were around half a cm long and one was at least double the size of all the rest. All seemed well and good. The caterpillars had plenty of food, a quiet place to eat, and plenty of room to move around.
Our instructions told us to clean the waste out of the cup 6-8 days after we received it. When we went to do so, two of the little guys had already died. They had curled up into little tiny “c” shapes for no apparent reason. At the same time, one caterpillar was enormous — at least two cm long. A second was slightly smaller, maybe a little over one cm. The third remaining one was still very active but didn’t seem to have grown at all. We were confident we’d have at least one butterfly by the end of the process.
About a week later, none of the caterpillars had tried to make a chrysalis. They all seemed to be moving around and eating, but that was about it. Then, one morning, Delightful came down from her room in tears, telling me that something was wrong with her caterpillars. I took a look. The little one that never seemed to grow had disappeared. We never did find it. The medium one was still alive and was moving around on the lid of the container. A good sign. However, the enormous caterpillar was at the bottom of the container – in pieces. It looked like it had exploded into a big pile of mush and jelly. Not good. We cleaned out the mush and unsuccessfully tried to find the little third caterpillar. We hoped that the single remaining caterpillar would make it to the butterfly stage.
No such “luck.”
Two days later, the remaining caterpillar, which was about two cm long, died. We noticed when we went to check on it and discovered that it was all stiff and no longer moving. We left it in case it was trying to shed its skin since some articles on the internet said that caterpillars stay still when doing so. Unfortunately, that was not the situation for our last chance at a butterfly. It was dead, dead, dead. So was our hope of succeeding with this science mission.
And so, our attempt at hatching five caterpillars ended with zero living and no butterflies. The teacher store doesn’t know if it can get any more caterpillars in this season. My little scientist is devastated. On the bright side, though, Grandma knows where to get some monarch caterpillars with a plant to hatch in the fall. So now we are looking forward to getting more wiggly pets and a chance to finally use our butterfly habitat!