Neither one of my boys are really nature lovers, but this was a nature-y science type thing we could do from the comfort of our back porch. What could go wrong, right?
I had a love/hate relationship with our butterfly project. It was really cool! But also sort of heartwrenching. Be prepared. It was more work than I thought it was going to be.
Here are a few tips and resources for your own monarch butterfly nature study.
Our Monarch Butterfly Nature Study
Last fall we studied the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. We got to watch each stage from egg to butterfly and I completely fell in love with these amazing creatures.
Call me crazy but watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly right before your very eyes is pretty awesome. It’ seems so silly, but I was all sorts of excited about the process. I’d check the enclosure every day, anticipating any changes we might find!
We spent many early morning hours waiting. Hoping to catch just one butterfly emerge from its chrysalis.
I remember the boys wanting to do their school work on the floor in my bedroom, the best spot in the house to wait and watch. The heat of our Florida August was just too heavy for waiting outside on the porch.
We never did succeed in seeing one emerge.
After hours of waiting, we’d walk away for just a second, having held our bathroom break as long as possible, but every time we’d hurry back to an empty chrysalis. Those darn things are quick!
Spring is in the air and these amazing creatures will be making their way back soon to begin their first generation life cycles of the year.
It’s the perfect time to prepare for your own monarch butterfly nature study!
What we used:
- live monarch enclosure
- milkweed plants from our local nursery
Tips for your project:
Keep your enclosure clean.
You’d be surprised how much caterpillars poop! I suggest lining the bottom of your enclosure with a paper towel. You can replace the towels every few days to avoid yuck at the bottom of your net.
Caterpillars eat a lot!
I made the mistake of running out and buying more milkweed plants when I saw that we were running out of leaves, but low and behold, that brought more eggs, more caterpillars, and more oh my holy butterfly responsibility!
Don’t run out and buy more plants unless you’re prepared for more caterpillars.
It’s impossible to keep up with the demand.
More than likely your milkweed plants will look like these in just a few short days after your caterpillars are visible. They grow crazy fast!
If you’re anything like me, you’ll panic because you’ll see hungry caterpillars but no food.
The only thing you can do is place your plants (and caterpillars-sorry little guys) outside in your garden and let nature take over. They have the best chance outside where they can find food. (I honestly hated this part. I wasn’t prepared for some of our little caterpillars who didn’t make it. Mother nature is brutal!)
Newly emerged butterflies need sunlight!
I wasn’t expecting the responsibility of helping the butterflies find their way out of the enclosure and out of my porch. Sigh…see what I mean? This was like a full-time butterfly caregiving job. I just assumed they’d fly right out the door. Not so much.
You may have to carefully place your enclosure outside and lead the butterflies out without touching them. Find a safe place (clear of predators) and unzip the screen flap wide enough for them fly out. Be sure to place them in a well-lit environment as their wings need sunlight to dry and become strong enough for flight.
Are you sweating yet?
Beware of predators!
So, this butterfly business is a big job, no? After falling in love with these amazing creatures I could not bear the thought of a flying bird swooping down and…well, you know. We tried to keep an eye on our butterflies as best we could when they were drying and working out their wings in the sun.
There is nothing better than watching your butterflies fly off into the blue sky above!
Websites I recommend:
This is a great site! Your child can adopt an online butterfly, request free milkweed seed packs by mail, and get involved in conservation efforts. Their online store has everything you need to get started.
We used their jumbo enclosure and it was big enough to fit 4-5 milkweed plants. This one is similar and looks like it holds multiple plants as well.
This is another great site with tons of information on migration, conservation, life cycle, etc. You’ll find coloring pages, teaching resources, and more here as well!
Monarch Magic!: Butterfly Activities & Nature Discoveries-This book was the perfect companion to our study! I highly recommend.
Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day: Exploring Creation with Zoology 1-This project went perfectly with our zoology study in 3rd grade.
Nature Study Inspiration:
Blog posts worth reading!
*This post contains affiliate links. Using them helps support this blog.
Also, thanks to my sweet mother-in-law for giving us our first milkweed plants and live enclosure!
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