Our preschool class hit for the cycle this summer session. That would be the life cycle of the black swallowtail butterfly.
Yesterday marked the completion of the cycle with the emergence of a butterfly from its chrysalis in our classroom. From the discovery that the chrysalis was wiggling to our actual release of the swallowtail on the playground, this was a total thrill. I held my breath as it pumped fluid into its wings and became stronger. I don't expect to be that excited again until the birth of a grandchild, and there's no rush on that!
Earlier this week many of the kids got to see a raggedy black swallowtail lay eggs on the dill plant in the school garden.
We watched many caterpillars on the school dill, and learned that nature is rough. Red wasps killed most of the caterpillars, although some may have crawled away to form a chrysalis elsewhere. In other years our caterpillars have been stung by fire ants, eaten by a praying mantis.
Some lucky students even got to see a caterpillar extend its orange horns to give off a bad smell to an incoming wasp. Sure wishing I was at that photo op!
We fed two caterpillars brought from my lead teacher's home dill plant. They lived in a jar at the Science Table. We saw the caterpillars attach themselves to plant stems with thread and we moved the chrysalids into a net for hatching.
We looked for changes each day, and voila, the first butterfly emerged before the three-day weekend. The lead teacher took the other chrysalis home since it would not survive emerging in the net during the long weekend. She can release it in her garden to really complete the cycle.
It has been nearly four years since we had a successful butterfly cycle with caterpillars found in the garden. Those were small checkerspot butterflies, cute but not nearly as thrilling as this perfect black swallowtail. Before that we hatched some mail-order red admirals with mixed results. Last spring we had the emergence and traumatic release of a monarch from its chrysalis.
While I was shuffling through the disorderly stacks in my brain attic, I first thought of "hat trick", the expression from British cricket referring to three wickets taken by a bowler in three consecutive balls. This feat was allegedly first achieved by the legendary Sir Harry Flashman in Flashman's Lady. I do so miss Flashy! Hat trick can also mean three consecutive wins, hits, or goals in any sport. A preschool class hat trick would be getting through three consecutive months with no cases of head lice!
© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder