The Butterflies Are Here!

Sometimes life can get VERY busy and there seems to be little time to get the things done that one would WANT to do. The good news is: The monarch butterflies hatched anyway! Students in our first classroom session saw movement in the habitat and spent most of the morning watching the butterfly pull itself out of the chrysalis.

butterfly hatching

The wings are small and limp, but grow as the butterfly pumps them.

new butterfly

I have a 24 hour rule about keeping butterflies. There is butterfly food on cotton balls so the next day’s class can see the butterfly and then it will be released.

monarch butterfly

All 5 butterflies hatched and were released. They will search out milkweed and lay more eggs to continue their life cycle. Keep in mind that when plants are sprayed to control insects, this will also kill butterflies. Most of us do not spray milkweed! Other butterflies like plants, though, that might be sprayed. The Giant Swallowtail eats citrus plants like the orange, lemon, tangerine and kumquat. Anise Swallowtail eats Parsley, Fennel, and Dill. The Gulf Fritillary eats Passionvine.

Insect Life

Butterflies and Moths are insects, a spider is not. Spiders has eight legs and eyes which quickly take them out of the insect family.

Butterflies and moths are special insects because they have wings and bodies that are very much alike and yet, very different.

Are be colourful.
Are diurnal and the daylight makes their colors showy.
Pupate in a hard chrysalis.
Rest with their wings closed and directly over their backs
Have thinner bodies and antenna.

Are be drably colored pale colours.
Are be nocturnal and low light levels will show pale colors.
Pupate inside a cocoon, spun out of silk and sometimes nearby materials like leaves
Rest with their wings closed and directly over their backs.
Have fuzzy, stockier bodies and antenna.

While waiting for butterflies and moths in the Science Lab to hatch out, students learn insect body parts by singing a fingerplay with a familiar tune:

Insect Body Parts
(Sung to the tune Head and Shoulder, Knees, and Toes)

Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen!
Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen!
Six legs, two antennae, with eyes and sometimes wings.
Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen!

insect playdough

They also create insects with playdough.

All of this can be used when the students write in their journals. They can draw pictures about what they see and teachers can take story dictation about what they are thinking as they draw. This hands on with song and actual insects to watch helps students remember what they have learned about the insect’s life.

Waiting for the Butterflies!

Spring has been very busy. The butterflies took their time arriving this year. Some of the caterpillars were not as hearty as previous years. We have pictures of the little critters on the milkweed brought in by a parent.


The milkweed was purchased at a local nursery that does not spray its plants. It already had small eggs on the plant.


Within a week the eggs started hatching.


The caterpillars munched on leaves for about ten days.


The last thing to appear was the chrysalis.

Our  first butterfly  did hatch after 12 days, but its wings were not formed correctly. Another hatched over the weekend and had to be released. So now we wait for another. This project takes care and patience, but is so amazing to watch.

The Life of a Caterpillar

The life of a caterpillar is led by one simple task: EAT! They hatch out from an egg smaller than a grain of rice and have about a week to grow to the full caterpillar size. They will then have to find a safe place to attach themselves, become a chrysalis, and hang around for several weeks until they are ready to become a butterfly. It is one of the most amazing things to see first-hand. It is a great way to welcome spring if you can get your hands on some caterpillars!

I brought in some caterpillars from my flower garden and was surprised to hear all the “ewws” and “yuckies” coming from my preschool students. Yes, they all knew that a butterfly came from a caterpillar, but most thought the creatures in the new habitat were bad worms.

Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars

Now, we count the days they are eating and hope to see a chrysalis soon. That will only lead to more counting as we wait for a butterfly, but counting is good!

The Heart Shape Returns

The great wait begins. First, the weather doesn’t cooperate. Then, several of the caterpillars escape before they even make it to the preschool science room.


Finally, I have secured some eggs and they hatch! NOW, we must provide them with food until they are big enough to turn into chrysalis. There are many other things we can do until then, like look for heart shapes around us.

The shape of a heart is often found in nature. Flowers and leaves come in the shape of a heart. Three green hearts make a Shamrock. Have a live shamrock on display for children to see. Press some of its leaves and laminate it.


One of my waiting stations has a stamp pad activity for making shamrocks. Three green hearts stamped close together make a shamrock! Ask children to write their names on their artwork, or at least the first letter. While my activities are not holiday activities in general, they sometimes reflect what is happening in our culture.


After three hearts come… Four hearts. Yes, I do have a rhyme for this.

Counting Hearts

One heart means “I love you.”
For a valentine you will need two.
Three hearts make a shamrock nearby
While four can be a butterfly.

Later in the month, I change stamp pads from green to pink and blue for the butterflies.

Theme for March – Butterflies and Moths

Traditionally, March is a good month for a butterfly theme, but this year has been colder and the butterflies are absent from our yard.  That doesn’t keep our preschool classroom from being on a butterfly alert!  Be on the look out because they will be here soon.

I start the theme by replacing book and puzzle activities and introducing two songs:

Little Caterpillar
(Tune: Itsy Bitsy Spider)
The little caterpillar crawled up into a tree
Turned into a chrysalis and slept so quietly
He slept a dozen days and didn’t make a sound
And he dreamed of his new life
When he could fly around.

Crawling Caterpillar
(Tune: Are You Sleeping)
See the caterpillar
See the caterpillar
Watch him crawl
Watch him crawl
See him eating all the leaves
When he’s finished, he will go
And crawl away
And crawl away

The children are on the lookout 24/7 for caterpillars. Caution should be taken because there are a few unfriendly caterpillars and a few that cause allergic reactions. I stick with the Gulf Fritillary, Monarch, and Painted Lady. They are the easiest to identify and are quick-growing. If you are trying to attract butterflies, then you must be sure to buy plants that have NOT been treated or sprayed. If it will kill an insect, it will kill a caterpillar or butterfly.