I have three kids, a girl and two boys. When my middle child, one of the boys, wasn't quite 3 years old, he developed a fanatical interest in anything with six legs and an exoskeleton. When he was 3, he insisted on being an earwig for Halloween. His fascination with the insect world led to many, many hours of collecting, studying, learning to identify, and photographing insects. It wasn't long before his interest turned to butterflies, and now that he's reach the ripe old age of almost-7, we're on our second year of rearing monarchs.
Last summer, we tried unsuccessfully to grow milkweed in our garden. Instead, we found a local park that had milkweed scattered throughout the area, not only in the butterfly garden. We collected eggs and caterpillars and brought them home to raise. Every day, we trekked over to the park to pick fresh leaves and enjoyed seeing every single one of our 15 caterpillars turn into beautiful monarchs. They were released in our back yard, and we started to look forward to the next summer when the monarchs would return and we could do it all over again.
This year we managed to grow several milkweed plants and collected 21 eggs and first instar caterpillars. All of them are growing up nicely so far, along with three black swallowtail cats and two tobacco hornworms (already pupating!). They take up a lot of counter space, but it's amazing to watch them grow. Thanks to an overzealous lawn boy, all but two of our milkweed plants fell victim to a weed whacker. Not a big deal, since the park where we collected milkweed last summer is right around the corner. In spite of finally getting something from the plant world to actually grow, we're back to visiting the park every day!
My son's birthday coincides with the start of monarch migration here, so this year he'll be getting a monarch tagging kit as a gift. We'll be able to tag our own monarchs as well as a few others. It's amazing to me how three very active and curious young kids can be so patient and gentle when handling butterflies. All three of the kids love to be involved with rearing the butterflies, and when we are out looking for bugs at parks, they happily show off their finds to other kids. Who would have thought that a little boy's desire to be an earwig for Halloween would have led to so many interesting family projects over the years?