Tips on making a butterfly garden
Eagle Crest is full of lepidopterologists! (Don’t worry ― that only means they’ve been studying butterflies.) Eagle Crest’s enrichment coordinator, Tiffany Smith, was reading through the Resident Enrichment Planning Guide for March and learned that March 14 is National Learn About Butterflies Day. She was struck by inspiration: “What if we built our own butterfly garden?!” Spoiler alert: They did. And the results were both educational and visually stunning.
If you build it, they will come
“I researched companies online to see if I could buy any sort of butterfly kit,” explained Tiffany. “I knew I wanted to hatch butterflies and set them free with my residents, but I definitely appreciated the direction.” She was able to find a kit online (www.insectlore.com) which provided the larva of 33 butterflies along with supplies for them to grow, cocoon, and hatch.
At first, the response to the idea of larva (i.e., juvenile caterpillars that look a lot like tiny worms) wasn’t very appealing. “It was a little messy but well worth the experience,” said Tiffany. “My residents
really enjoyed coming down every day to check on their caterpillar and seeing the entire process of becoming a butterfly.”
The hungry caterpillars
“The larva all came in one jar,” explained Tiffany. “I took small cups, labeled them 1-33, and put one larva in each along with some food, which was also included in the kit. Some of my residents were really interested in it, so I assigned them numbers to match the cups. Over the next few days, they cheered their larva on, watching them grow into caterpillars.”
And grow they did. Within two days the baby caterpillars had tripled in size. “Once they reached the right size, they started making webbing on the top of their cups and building cocoons. It was really neat to watch.”
At this point in the butterfly-making process, it was time for the final step before setting the butterflies free: the net.
“Once the caterpillars are all cocooned over, you need to transfer them into a net,” said Tiffany with the confidence of a true lepidopterologist. “It should look like a little tent almost, so when they hatch they’ll be somewhat contained.”
When the cocoons were secured in the net, the only thing the residents of Eagle Crest could do was wait. So they waited and waited until finally, on the fourth day of being in their net enclosure, the cocoons started to hatch open. One by one, beautiful Painted Lady Butterflies emerged showing off the most gorgeous colors.
You can fly, you can fly...
Shortly after the butterflies hatched they were released into the wild. “Butterflies don’t have a very long lifespan, so we only kept them for a few days before setting them free,” said Tiffany.
And with that, weeks of work and planning came to fruition. The butterflies flew along their merry ways and now call the area around Eagle Crest home.
Tiffany has definitely set a high standard: “Our residents here loved it so much they keep asking me what we are going to do next!”
Luckily, since butterflies fly best in warm weather, this activity can be recreated throughout the summer. Still, Eagle Crest residents want some variety, and Tiffany is already planning.
“I think our next kit will be the lady bugs!”
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