Butterflies are beautiful and beneficial. At the Clay Center we have Education Gardens where we grow both vegetables and plants that attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Why is it important to attract pollinators to a vegetable garden? When you attract pollinators they will help pollinate your vegetable plants like squash and cucumbers that rely on pollinators to help them produce fruit. Bees make the best pollinators because their legs are shorter, so when they enter the flower to get nectar, their entire body gets covered with pollen which is then taken to other flowers and deposited. Butterflies have longer legs and a proboscis (an elongated sucking mouthpart) that keeps them from getting fully covered in pollen, but their legs and proboscis still pick up some pollen as they go from plant to plant making them beneficial pollinators.
The beauty of butterflies makes them popular in artwork as well as in our gardens. The process of how a butterfly becomes a beautiful insect with dazzling wings is a work of art in and of itself. Use this fun butterfly mobile to teach your kids all about the lifecycle of the butterfly!
What You Need:
- Gallon Milk Jug
- Simple 3×5 Butterfly Images
- String (black and white)
- Pipe Cleaners
- Packing Tape
- Permanent Markers
What You Do:
Cut your milk jug into various sections. Make some pieces large enough to trace your butterfly images, smaller pieces to be cut into leaves and cut other sections into long shapes for flower drawings.
Butterflies lay eggs on the leaves or stems of a food source plant, so when the caterpillar hatches, it will have an available food source.
Egg Section of Butterfly Mobile:
- Cut smaller sections of the milk jug into simple leaf shapes
- Cut tiny notches in both ends of the leaves to eventually attach them to the string of the mobile
- Color the leaf shapes and glue the mini-pompoms onto the leaf
NOTE: you can also use beads for eggs
The caterpillar is a long, worm-like creature patterned in stripes or patches. The caterpillar sheds its skin four times as it grows larger.
Caterpillar Section of Mobile:
- Put 2-3 pieces of different colored pipe cleaner together
- Wrap them around a pencil so they look like a striped caterpillar
- Slide the pipe cleaners off the pencil and bend them to give them the appearance of crawling caterpillars
When the caterpillar reaches full size, it attaches itself to a stem or leave with a tab of silk. The fourth and final shed is the chrysalis that the butterfly forms to protect itself as it transforms into a butterfly. It’s easy to think that a chrysalis is something the butterfly makes, like a cocoon, but it’s actually a hard layer of skin. Moths create cocoons, not butterflies.
Chrysalis Section of Mobile:
- Roll a section of packing tape into an elongated chubby wad
- Tie a piece of white string to one end of the packing tape and wrap the string until the entire packing tape wad is covered
- Tuck the last end of the string under one of the wraps and tie it. Leave a little bit of string loose for tying the chrysalis to the mobile
Depending on the species of butterfly, sometimes after days or even months, a butterfly finally emerges from its chrysalis! In this stage of life, butterflies can fly to find food, mate, lay eggs, colonize new habitats and help pollenate plants!
Butterfly/Flower Section of Mobile:
- Trace or color the milk jug sections with at least 3 butterfly images and three flower sections
- Cut out the butterflies and flower sections as desired
- Cut a 4-5 inch section of pipe cleaner and string a few beads on one end
- Wrap the pipe cleaner around the center of the butterfly with the beads on the front side. Twist the two pipe cleaner ends together at the top and curl them over to make antenna
- Tie a piece of black string to each end of the stick to make a hanger and to attach your leaves with eggs
- Tie three long strings to hang down off the stick to hold the butterflies and flower parts of the mobile
- Attach the leaves with eggs by cutting little notches in each end of the leaf and sliding them onto the hanger string
- Attach the caterpillars to the stick by tying them with black string or gluing
- Tie the chrysalis to the branch using the piece of string you left loose
- Attach the butterflies to the end of each hanging string by tying the string to the pipe cleaner body of the butterfly
- Attach the flowers by cutting little notches in each end as you did with the leaves
- Hang your mobile in a window and enjoy!
– Kayte (mobile designed and assembled by Jamie)