Two weekends ago, we said goodbye to some very special house guests -- a "family" of painted lady butterflies.
I've never been good at taking care of pets. My mom could tell you stories. My big kids could tell you about the poor beta fish that we had for a while.
Five painted lady butterfly caterpillars came (via US Mail) in a closed container that contained all the food that they would need.
After watching them crawl around their home for a few days, they started settling themselves upside down on the lid. I expected to see them spin cocoons, but instead, they just somehow transformed into a chrysalis. It wasn't like the cocoon formed around it or that a layer of caterpillar skin gradually came off -- it just became the chrysalis.
We spent much of one day watching the caterpillars transform. It was quite dramatic the way that they twitched violently and then somehow became a hard chrysalis. Once the first few transformed, we continued to see them twitch if another caterpillar crawled nearby. We suspect that this movement is some sort of defense mechanism to protect themselves from predators.
When all the chrysalises were formed, I carefully transferred them to our bigger butterfly house. They were not happy with me touching them, but they stopped twitching after a few minutes. About a week later, we woke up and noticed the first butterfly had emerged from its chrysalis and was spreading its wings. We watched the butterfly house most of the day. When I had to leave for a while, we set up a camera to record what we were missing. Try as we might, we didn't manage to see (or record) any of the five butterflies when they were first coming out.
Our butterflies lived on the dining room table for about three days, eating a diet of sugar water and orange slices. It became clear that they wanted to fly farther than they could in their butterfly house, and we took them outside to release them. What a treat to see all five of the butterflies fly off towards the trees.