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TIPS TO AVOID DEAD BUTTERFLIES
on 7 June 2017
TIPS TO AVOID DEAD BUTTERFLIES
This is a wonderful gift and children are much more likely to remember with fondness a natural wildlife experience like this, rather than a toy. It is easy to keep the net for an annual butterfly project too, and it's always magical to see them emerge.
1. Read all of the literature and view videos beforehand, and then read it all again. In fact, read a few books about insects in general, they are ace! Seriously, you need to not be in a position where the caterpillars turn up and you're scrambling around looking for the leaflet which somehow has disappeared from the box. Also you don't want to look like a bumbling amateur in front of kiddies.
2. Don't leave the care of vulnerable darling insects to kids. This all needs the care and dedication of an adult, and if you're not wringing your hands in anxiety over the fate of these tiny creatures at least twice a day you're not putting the time in.
3. Put a stiff tray under the butterfly enclosure to keep it stable when you move it around. It is a flimsy net and the bottom warps, resulting in pupae rolling around on the floor unless you put the entire thing on a hard surface.
4. Load up your cardboard chrysalis stand with a few dried peas to give it some weight and mechanical hardness, otherwise the card tends to fatigue and your carefully balanced cup lid laden with chrysalids ends up falling flat onto the enclosure floor.
5. Don't pin the chrysalis cup lid to the side of the netting. Opening and closing the zip on the lid results in the entire enclosure warping or shaking and flinging your precious animals around. Use the chrysalis holder, or blue-tack the holder to the ground leaning against the net.
6. Put a paper towel or tissue at the bottom of the enclosure - that meconium gets everywhere!
7. If you see any traces of mould in the substrate in your cup of caterpillars while they are still in the feeding up stage, carefully remove the lid after scaring the larvae onto the bottom of the cup, and scoop out any mould with a plastic spoon. This mould will spread really quickly because of the low ventilation and high humidity of the cup, and kill the caterpillars. The caterpillar food is meant to be sterile when it arrives but the hatchlings themselves may have spores on them which can grow into a big mould problem.
8. Don't remove any chrysalides that you think are dead. They probably aren't. Just put them on the floor of the enclosure and leave them alone. If they make it, great, if they don't, it's the circle of liiiife.
9. Don't bother keeping the butterflies and feeding them on nectar (a heaped teaspoon of sugar in 100 ml of water soaked into tissues on a saucer) for longer than a day or two, unless they are not healthy enough to survive in the wild and you might get a kick out of keeping them. They really prefer being outdoors and risk damaging wings if they are kept in the enclosure for a long time, and they get nectar all over themselves and it's terrifying to watch.
10. I have made this sound like a difficult, harrowing and thankless task. It is actually not hard, and is incredibly rewarding to witness a miraculous natural event with your kids, Enjoy!