Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Butterfly Treehouse

In early August, I mentioned that our shipment of caterpillars for our Butterfly Treehouse had arrived. They were in a box marked "Live Insects" - I don't think I have received a more terrifying piece of mail in my life.

Luckily they came in a little plastic cup with holes in the lid and they were able to happily (maybe) live out their caterpillar days in the comfort of that very same cup.

Those caterpillar days were quite brief as within a couple of days, three of them were already in their chrysalis stage, and by 4 days in, all four were hanging from the lid of the cup. I guess they lived out most of their caterpillarhood in the mail. I am sure they have fond memories of the box.

Anyway, at the point where they were all hanging from the lid, they needed to be transferred into their treehouse. I delegated this important (and potentially gross) task to Mike, giving him a wonderful bonding moment with his son. Sharing the joy, that's what I am all about.

And you know, not touching bugs, I am very much about that, too.

Then we had to wait. The instructions said it would take 7-10 days for them to hatch (emerge? unchrysalize?) Tater was very excited to see them, but we had a weekend at the beach coming up and I was afraid we would miss the big event. He assured me that he wasn't all that interested in the hatching, he just liked the idea of having butterflies in his room.

Right around the 7 day mark, we found that there were two butterflies hanging out on the side of the treehouse. Apparently they have to sit around for a while for their wings to dry before they can actually fly around.

I had read in the instructions that came with treehouse that there could be some "red stuff" in the cage, which was part of the hatching process and not anything to be concerned about. I am glad I read that, because otherwise when I saw the splatters of what looked like (a lot of) blood all over the bottom and sides of the cage, I would have been QUITE concerned.

As it was, we had the treehouse sitting very close to the blinds in Tater's room and they looked like part of some sort of crime scene. Luckily it could all be wiped up pretty easily, but I would definitely recommend not putting this thing anywhere near upholstered surfaces or curtains. Could be big trouble!

Once the butterflies had hatched, we had to feed them. We mixed up some sugar water and put a few plastic bottlecaps full in the cage. Let me remind you that sugar water is quite sticky, and sugar water in a bottlecap is not at all spill-resistant. So make sure your kid understands that swinging the cage around is a BAD idea once the water is in there. Not that I have any personal experience with such a thing, but just saying...

On the day before we left for our beach weekend, all of the butterflies were out and beginning to fly. We made a deal with Tater that we would let them go the day after we returned, so that the butterflies would live out at least some piece of their lives in freedom. He sort of agreed.

So off we went to the beach (and had a lovely time), and when we came back, all of the butterflies were dry and flying around. Fun!!

So finally the day had come to set Tater's pets free! Except that he begged for one more day. So then THAT day arrived...

First we had to carefully take the (very sticky) bottlecaps out.

Then we took the treehouse out on the deck and unzipped the door.

Then we waited.

And waited.
You know how a fly can't seem to figure out how to go out of the open window?

Butterflies are just about that smart.

Finally, one flew out and away...and of course it went so suddenly and so quickly that I was unable to get a picture...

Then...another one...suddenly and quickly...

Then, more waiting. And some experimentation with encouraging the remaining occupants of the treehouse to take to the sky.

Then the third butterfly came out, circled Tater's head (wouldn't that have been a great picture?? Except that it isn't...) and flew away. This is what it looked like right AFTER the butterfly flew away. I am an excellent photographer.

Then, finally, the last one came out and landed on Tater's garden. I know you can't see him here...

But here's a closer look...see him now?

The kids thought it was very exciting that he had landed right there and was free, yet still visible.

They watched him for a little while and then encouraged him to fly which point he fluttered down to the grass and didn't fly away. And didn't fly away. And still didn't fly away.

I am telling myself he just liked us and didn't want to leave...but he might have ended up being lunch for some bird. The circle of life.

The directions in the Butterfly Treehouse suggest that it can be re-used. You can just order more caterpillars and start all over again. However, with the blood spatter and the sugar water stickiness, I felt that it was not something we needed to keep around. And really - been there, done that.

Now, Tater wants some thing that he heard about for hatching ladybugs. And maybe praying mantis. Did I mention that I am not all that fond of bugs?

Besides, now we have this little I am thinking we are full up on pets for a little while!!

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