She Says… It’s Aliiiiiiiive

Caterpillars. Butterflies. Chrysalises.

Of course I “knew” how it worked. But I never really knew how it worked until I saw it happen right in my kitchen. And now that I’ve seen it happen I am completely awe-struck by the entire process. So is my preschooler. And my husband. And the many friends who came through our kitchen during the 4+ week transformation.



Let me start at the beginning. For Christmas my sister got Owen a book about the butterfly life cycle along with a pop-up tent for “growing butterflies”. We chatted about it at the time and decided to put it away until spring/summer time, since the idea is that you “grow” the butterflies from caterpillars and then let them go, but they only survive when it’s above 60 degrees. When you’re ready to start the process, you order a canister of live caterpillars from a website.


It’s a little weird. I know. They come in the mail all enclosed in it with all of the food that they need, so all you do is leave them still on your counter after getting them acclimated to your temperature.

And then, they grow. They eat and grow and crawl around. And slowly but surely they eat away at the brown goop inside the container and become chubby little caterpillars.


And then they attach themselves to a piece of paper on the top of the canister and the chrysalises grow around them. This part is the beginning of the amazingness.


You transfer the paper with the chrysalises to the little butterfly tent, and then you wait.

Well, at least that’s what the directions said would happen.

But when I transferred my paper from the plastic container to the butterfly tent, one of the chrysalides STARTED FLAPPING AND SHAKING. I nearly threw the entire paper across the room. I may or may not have shrieked. Which is really quite stupid because, duh, they are just caterpillars, and I am not generally a squeamish person, but something about this flapping mummified insect (that I expected to be in a hibernation-type sleep) kind of threw me for a loop.

As it turned out, that one was the first one to “hatch”, so I’m guessing it was just further along in the process and maybe had some nervous system response to being moved? Not sure about why that happened, but it sure did scare the bejesus out of me.


Eventually we got them transferred safely (not quite sure how), but then we waited. And about a week later they started hatching. Err, emerging. We had 5 caterpillar/butterflies and we didn’t manage to catch ANY of them in the process of actively emerging — unfortunately they all did it overnight or when we were out. But, lo and behold, by the end we had 5 beautiful butterflies.

There was something so exciting and lovely about coming home and checking on them and seeing Yes! A new butterfly emerged! A little butterfly baby WAS BORN!


(Note to those who may ever do this: That red stuff, in the picture above? Yeah. It’s meconium. It drips out when the butterflies emerge from the coccoons, and it looks like blood, which can be disconcerting and a little scary. And gross. But, you know, sometimes the gross things are also the most fascinatingly beautiful.)

So then we fed them, by putting flower petals inside the tent and sprinkling sugar water on top. Owen loved this part.


Finally we had kept them long enough, and we decided we were ready to let them live free, in the wild (the suburbs of Boston are “wild” enough!).


So we Owen named them (Ellie, Tennis Ball, Emmett, Whistle, Pretty Baby), appreciated them one, last time as they hopped obediently onto his finger, and then let them fly away, fly away, fly away home.


Owen absolutely loved setting them free. I am still overwhelmingly amazed and in awe of the fact that those teeny tiny caterpillars grew right before our eyes and emerged from their hard little cocoons as beautiful butterflies.

Mother Nature certainly knows what she’s doing, eh?



If you want in on the butterfly-growing, the kit we used is this one.

(We’re not being paid to say anything about this product, we just received it as a gift from my sister for Christmas and loved using it. That link above is my Amazon affiliate link, so I’ll get a few cents if you order directly from there).


13 responses to “She Says… It’s Aliiiiiiiive

  1. We’ve had four butterflies living in our playroom for about a week. It has been the coolest experience! I LOVED watching them. My boys thought it was cool, but definitely not as much as I did.

  2. We didn’t get to see any of ours emerge either and I was really bummed, but we all had a really good time watching the transformation. I was afraid there would be tears when we let them go, but my little guy was actually really excited about setting them free. Now anytime we see a butterfly, he thinks it’s one of his 🙂

  3. Caroline s.

    So cool! Growing up with a family of nursery school teachers we had silk worms that we had similar experiences with… They would go from teeny tiny eggs, to little silk worms (we always put them on our fingers for them to crawl around, probably why I hate all bugs BUT worms and caterpillars..) Then they would eat and eat and eat and build their little cocoons, and out came the silk moths that then laid more eggs and died. It was an amazing cycle that we had in our home for at least 5 or 6 years.

  4. This is awesome! Your link isn’t working for me though. Could you post it again? I would love to get this for my girls this summer. Thanks!

  5. Have you listened to the incredible Radiolab podcast about transformation where they discuss the chrysalis and what butterflies remember from their previous lives as caterpillars? I cannot recommend it enough. I was just so amazed:

  6. Can you try to post the link one more time, please? It didn’t work for me.

    Since I just about bawled reading what you wrote about it, I figure it would be pretty cool to let my little ones try it. 🙂

  7. Sorry about the broken link! I just updated it in the post. You can use this one:

    It’s a very inexpensive and engaging project.

  8. @Sarah, Owen does the same of thinking every butterfly is his “coming to say hi”. It’s so precious.

    @Caroline S., That’s so cool!

    @Meggy, I have not, but now I’m very excited to check it out. Thanks for the link.

    @Anna, It’s a wonderful little nature lesson, right in your home.

  9. LOLOL.

    You seriously just did that. You can change the “broken link” (FYI, it worked for me the first time) to be associated with your Amazon store (from which you receive commission) but you didn’t bother to edit out the part that says you’re not being paid to say anything about the product.

    This is quite possibly the most hilarious and crappy thing you’ve done since that April Fool’s tweet.

  10. @Wow., The first link was to my Amazon affiliate link as well. And… no one IS paying me to say anything about this product. I have mentioned before that I get a very tiny percentage of things that are sold from my Amazon affiliate links, but I can assure you it’s measured in cents, not even dollars, so this was not a ploy to secretly make money off of anyone buying a $12 item.

    But you’re right that I should remind people about that for full transparency, so I’ll add an addendum to the post now. Thanks!

  11. Wow… the only thing crappy is your attitude.

  12. I bought that for my niece a couple years ago – it’s amazing!

    Also, I’m dying at the name “Tennis Ball.”

  13. @Meg, Ha! I loved “Emmett”. He kept saying, “Fly away, Emmett! Fly away!”. Freud would have had a field day.

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