Butterfly Student Kit Review


The Butterfly Student Kit from Heath Scientific comes with a butterfly habitat, guide, dropper, and coupon for live caterpillars. The caterpillars and their food are mailed directly to you, any time of year. The product comes with a guarantee that at least 3 of the 5 caterpillars will turn into butterflies.

The Science

Watching the metamorphosis process is fascinating as butterflies go through four distinct stages of life. Learn the butterfly’s life cycle by observing it firsthand.

Reviews

This product tends to get high and enthusiastic reviews.

One reviewer described how her children would rush to see the progress of the caterpillars every morning and would call “Hey, Mom, come look at this!” Soon, she found herself rushing to the caterpillars and calling, “Kids, come look!” also.

A 5th grade teacher reviewing this kit said it helps her students really remember the metamorphosis stages to see it firsthand.

Easiest pet ever

Simple care.

No messes to clean up.

No feeding: caterpillars come with enough food.

If the butterflies emerge when it’s above 55 degrees outside, you can let them go in the wild. If not, they live for 2-4 weeks and eat sugar water.

For All Ages

Children of all ages–and even adults!–enjoy this butterfly kit. It’s a favorite gift for elementary-aged children, particularly the 5-7 year-old age range, but children as young as 2 thoroughly enjoy the butterfly kit. (Of course, always be careful with young children. Small parts can pose a choking hazard.)

Adults reviewing the product frequently mention how they themselves were, surprisingly, captivated by watching the metamorphosis.

 

What is an instar?


An instar is a developmental stage between molts. Most common insects go through 3-6 instars.

Monarch caterpillar

Monarch caterpillars, for example, go through several molts, or instars.

The first instar finds the monarch caterpillar pale yellow. At first, they don’t even have the distinguishing stripes of the monarch caterpillar. Second instar caterpillars have distinct stripes. Further instars find caterpillars with legs closer to their heads, different eating patterns, and even different behaviors.

More information

For a fantastic photo series on a monarch going through instars, then pupation, see this photo set.

The University of Minnesota has a great Field Guide to help you identify monarch instars, including identifying features and, best of all, a photo of all 5 instars + an egg together. It’s impressive.

To watch the instars of a painted lady caterpillar in person, try a Butterfly Student Kit.

Monarch Watch This Week

Monarch butterflies are migrating south for winter. If you’re in Texas, go on a walk and watch for monarchs as they fly south. To see if monarchs might be flying near you, check out this map of recent monarch sightings.

Two-way migration

image courtesy of the US Forest Service

Like birds, monarch butterflies migrate south for winter, then return north in the spring. Monarchs are the only butterflies to make a two-way migration like this.

Daytime travel

Monarchs travel only by day. At night, they roost together at congregation sites. The monarchs stay close together to keep warm.

Light as a feather, heavy as as 2-year-old

An individual monarch weighs less than a paperclip, but tens of thousands can cluster together in a single tree. The combined weight is so heavy that branches sometimes break.

Other resources

Live butterfly garden: experience the butterfly life cycle at home or in a classroom.
Lesson Plans. Monarch Lab has some free monarch butterfly lesson plans customized for grades K-2, 3-6, and middle/high school.
Butterfly life cycle model: set of detailed life cycle figures.
Questions about monarchs. Dr. Oberhauser answers a plethora of fascinating questions about monarchs.

Silkworm Life Cycle

Known for the silk thread they produce to form their cocoons, the silkworm is the larvae stage for the Bombyx mori moth. As an insect that undergoes complete metamorphosis, it has 4 stages of development.

Eggs

The eggs are very tiny and are usually laid near the end of summer or early fall. They remain dormant until spring or when warmth stimulates a spring season environment. It takes the eggs about two weeks to hatch after they are activated.

If you want to store Silkworm eggs, be sure to put them in a fridge right away (don’t freeze them). Keep them near the warmer part of the refrigerator.

Larvae (Silkworm)

silkwormsNewly hatched silkworms are small (1/8 inch), hairy, and eat tender mulberry leaves. The hair gets shed when they go through their first of five growth stages called instars.

You can tell an silkworm is about cross an instar stage because it will hold its head up in the air. Its important to not touch or disturb the silk worm as its transitioning between instar stages. It will then shed its outer layer of skin. After each instar the silkworm is able to eat tougher mulberry leaves and will be bigger.

After 5 instar stages, the Silkworm will encase itself with a silk cocoon.

Pupa (Cocoon)

Silkworm cocoonSilkworm cocoons will be shades of white, cream, and yellow. They will have a glistening shine because of the silk they are made from.

After 2 weeks, the silkworm releases an enzyme from its head that dissolves the silk. It then emerges as an adult moth.

Adult (Moth)

Adult: Bombyx Mori mothSilkworm moths (Bombyx mori) do not eat or drink. They crawl around but do not fly. Females have a larger abdomen and are not very active. Males have much larger antennae and will vibrate its wings rapidly as it seeks a female.

After reproduction, the male moth dies. The female will lay eggs within 24 hours and die shortly thereafter.

Interesting Silkworm facts

Due to hundreds of years of domestication (providing abundant food and pampering them), Bombyx mori (silkworms) do not crawl away in the pupa stage and can’t fly in the adult stage.

Silk is harvested by killing the pupa (by heating or pricking with a needle) and then unwinding the thread of silk, which can be half a mile long.

The entire life cycle only takes a couple months.

The Bombyx mori silkworms were originally domesticated in China where the secret to producing silk was closely guarded for centuries but was leaked around 200 BC and eventually was also produced in India and Europe.

Silkworm pupae are a delicacy eaten in China.

Where you can buy Silkworm Supplies

Silkworm food

25 live silk worms

25 silk worm eggs

Silkworm life cycle model

Where you can learn more about Silkworms

Detailed life cycle

History and general information

Another step-by-step life cycle

Ant Life Cycle

As an insect that undergoes complete metamorphosis, the ant has 4 stages in its life cycle:

  1. Eggs
  2. Larvae
  3. Pupa
  4. Adult

Ant Eggs

Ant with jelly beansAnt eggs are tiny, about the size of the period at this end of this sentence.

The eggs can be laid year round, but most are laid during summer months.

Unfertilized eggs produce male ants (drones) and fertilized eggs produce female ants (workers or queens).

Some eggs are eaten by ants and provide extra nourishment.

Ant Larvae

The worm-shaped larvae have no eyes or legs. All they do is eat and rely on adult ants to bring them food. They grow rapidly, molting between sizes.

Ant Pupa

Once a larvae grows large enough, it transitions to the next stage in its life cycle: pupa. Some species attach to the wall and form a cocoon. Other species just lie in the tunnel.

The ant is at rest during this pupa stage. Its body is undergoing a lot of physical changes.

Ant Adult

When the ant emerges from the cocoon, its exoskeleton hardens and it can no longer grow: this is when the ant is now considered an adult. Ant

Generally, ants only live for about 90 days.

Male ants don’t do any work in the colony. They only live a few weeks to a couple months and die after they reproduce.

The workers’ first job is to tend to the queen and eggs. After a while their job changes and they work in the tunnels. Their final job in life is to forage for food and defend the colony.

Workers are known to live up to 7 years and queens up to 15 years.

Where you can get supplies

Ant life cycle model

25 pack of live harvester ants

Ant hill habitat

Classic ant farm

Ant-related websites

1 page summary of the ant life cycle.

Detailed information about the various parts in an ant life cycle.

Very simple summary of the ant life cycle.