Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nature Study Monday: Chrysalis!

(Or Wednesday, as the case may be.  Sometimes our wonky internet connection interferes with my good intentions to post more regularly...)
You may remember that we’ve been keeping a caterpillar to observe for a while.   We’ve faithfully changed his leaves, we’ve seen him shed his skin a few times as he’s grown, and generally enjoyed the process.
Last Thursday (June 20), Michelle noticed that he had attached himself to the lid of the container we’ve been keeping him in.   “Mom! I bet he’s going to go into his cocoon!”    Sure enough, we looked again a few hours later and that’s just what he had done!   Shed his ‘spiny’ skin one last time and finally transformed himself!
Sorry about the eerie red glow - he attached himself to the transluscent red lid of  his tupperware-home.

After looking up the information about insects and butterflies in particular in the Handbook of Nature Study, we discovered that butterflies don’t actually make cocoons.  The correct term for a butterfly pupa is a chrysalis.   I don’t think I had ever realized the difference between these things, even though I’d heard the terminology before.  From HONS p. 296:
“Many larvae, especially among the moths, weave about themselves a covering of silk which serves to protect them for their enemies and the weather during the helpless pupa period.  This silken covering is called a cocoon.  The larvae of butterflies do not make a silken cocoon, but the pupa is suspended to some object by a silken knob, sometimes by a halter of silk, and remains entirely naked.  The pupa of a butterfly is called a chrysalis.”
His body shape has very obviously transformed – although the patterning and color scheme are the same - and if you look carefully you can see the shape of his wings beginning to form.   We can also see very faintly the silken threads by which he attached himself to the lid of our container.   So fascinating.
Sorry this photo isn't so clear, but it does show the wing shape pretty well.

 We’ve had some interesting conversations too, as my little ones have asked “How does he know how to shed his skin, mama?  How does he know how to make his chrysalis?” 
“Well, he doesn’t really know.  You don’t know how your teeth fall out, do you?”  (Yes, Michelle is the teeth-losing stage.  She’s lost 3 already, and is eagerly awaiting the day that she will catch up to her friend who has already lost 6!!  The two front ones don’t have much longer to live…)
“No, not really.  They just do.”
“That’s right.  God designed your body to just know to do that as you grow.  The same thing with the caterpillar.   He doesn’t know HOW he sheds his skin or exactly when to become a chrysalis.   That’s just the way God made him.  God made his body to know how to do that at just the right time.”
At which point 3-year-old Elizabeth stood up on her chair and yelled “GOD MADE HIM TO DO THAT!”
Don’t we serve an amazingly creative God?  
PS – We’re making some guesses how long it will take him to become an adult butterfly – I’m guessing 2 weeks and Michelle says 3!   We’ll keep you posted!!


  1. Great post! One of the many things I love about a Charlotte Mason lifestyle of learning is the AWE-some moments, the ah-ha! moments, the questions, the wonderings that all come with observing God's hand in creation.
    Reading this makes me want to start blogging our nature study times again!
    ps-I found your blog on the AO forum, which I very recently joined -- what a place!!)