Gracen Raises Butterflies: Release Day

Well, the big day finally came…  As of yesterday morning, all 8 of our caterpillars had successfully completed the transition to butterflies (yay for a 100% success rate!)  We watched them for one final day, the newbies drying and pumping up their wings and the others slurping up juice from fresh fruit, knowing that if the weather cooperated, today would be release day.

With the rain clouds gone, the sun shining, and still plenty of time before dark, we decided to set our butterflies free as soon as Gracen woke up from her nap.  Before heading into the backyard, we had a little chat about what releasing the butterflies actually meant.  We talked about how they’d enjoyed their time with us, but they’d also love flying free in nature.  We talked about the things they’d do once released, like fly, drink nectar, and lay eggs…  And we talked about the fact that once they were released, they wouldn’t be coming back to us.  This initially made her a little sad, but she was okay with it after I explained that they had things to do and they’d be alright on their own.

IMG 8192Because there were a couple of butterflies enjoying the orange when we were ready to take them outside, I decided to make the somewhat risky move of taking the orange slice, butterflies perched atop,  outside on its own.  The hut was positioned close to a door, and luckily neither flew off before I safely got outdoors.  In fact, this little one continued to slip up juice from the orange for quite a while, even once completely free to go.

IMG 8243With our two hungry butterflies already outside and the rest of the fruit removed from the bottom of the hut, it was time to take the entire enclosure out.  Though I’ve done it on my own in the past, this truly is a two person job.  I gently shooed the butterflies hanging out near the bottom of the enclosure up to the top, collected the four flaps at the opening, and Brad unpinned it from the ceiling.  Walking very slowly in order to keep the enclosure taut and not squish any butterflies, we brought the whole thing outside, laid it on its side in the grass, and opened up the bottom.

IMG 8255IMG 8208While you might expect them to be in a rush to fly off to their freedom, for the most part, they’re not.  Except for one, I retrieved the butterflies from inside the hut by gently coaxing them to climb onto my finger, then brought them out into the open.

IMG 8250The cool part is that most will hang around a while, giving you a great opportunity to see them up close without mesh intruding on your view.

IMG 8211IMG 8194This is also a great time for little ones to ‘hold’ a butterfly too.  All you have to do gently coax the butterfly {without touching their wings obviously} into climbing onto your finger, then place your finger on the edge of the child’s hand to make a careful transfer.  You can do it lots of different ways, but I personally like putting the butterfly on the topside of the child’s hand as it prevents the gut reaction of closing the fingers around the butterfly when it decides to fly off.

IMG 8268IMG 8239When they decide to go, some will fly off high into the blue sky until you lose sight, while others will land on a nearby plant.  Another possibility is that they’ll fly for a bit and decide to touch down on the grass, so be sure to be mindful of where you’re walking.

IMG 8222I’m so, so glad that we decided to do raise butterflies with Miss G this year.  As each butterfly eventually made it’s way off, Gracen would call out, “Buh bye, butterfly!  Have a funny day!”  – a happy goodbye.  It’s been an amazing learning experience, and without a doubt, she’s learned a ton.  She uses all kinds of new words now and can tell you all about the butterfly life cycle and butterfly parts.  Best of all, she’s learned this all in a hands-on, meaningful way without actually realizing that she was learning. ☺

To see all of the posts in our Gracen Raises Butterflies series, click here.

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