Wanting to attract butterflies, I did a little research to find out what types of plants to incorporate into our landscaping and gardens. Here is a website that will help you determine what to plant: www.butterflywebsite.com/butterflygardening.cfm. This website tells you which plants will attract certain caterpillars and also food for the butterflies. I planted dill seeds on our acreage. Every fall the children collect many caterpillars off of the dill plants. This past year we also found caterpillars on the carrot tops in the vegetable garden.
We keep the caterpillars inside in a plastic aquarium with a lid and add fresh dill every day. The key to feeding caterpillars is to provide fresh leaves of the plant that you found them on every day. When the caterpillars have formed their chrysalis we wait to see the transformation.
The children check on them every day until soon we find that the butterfly has emerged from the chrysalis. What an exciting day that is!
After their wings dry, we wait for a nice day and then take them outside and release them.
Black swallowtail and monarch caterpillars look the same to me. The way to tell what butterfly will emerge from the chrysalis is by the plant that you find the caterpillar on. Monarchs prefer milkweed plants while the black swallowtails prefer plants in the dill family. We hunt through the milkweed plants to find monarch caterpillars to hatch. We hatched three monarchs this year. The picture below shows the chrysalis hatching to a monarch butterfly.
This is a monarch chrysalis.
Our acreage came with an added bonus that we never knew until the first fall we were here. Our yard is a roosting spot for the migrating monarch butterflies!! Each fall we have hundreds if not thousands of monarch butterflies pass through. It is so fun to start watching for them to migrate through. It usually starts the first part of September.
In the fall of 2014 we witnessed over a thousand butterflies. The monarchs start coming into the yard around 430 or 5 PM; we would go around and shake the tree branches to watch them fly.
Monarchs roost together in the trees, the colder the air temperature is the closer the butterflies roost to each other. Near the end of the migration period, they would almost be two or three butterflies thick as they tried to stay warm at night.
Getting your children interested in butterflies makes the outdoors that much more interesting to them. As they get into nature and discover what lies outside the front door, you will have enthusiastic naturalists in your care.
Alinda L. Wiarda
Family Child Care Professional