In early December, my family in Colombia started to send me pictures of their beautifully decorated houses. All of them included gorgeous Christmas trees with red shiny ornaments. As I was looking at the pictures, it hit me. I have a pine tree all year round, and I never look at it. It is not a unique thing for this time of the year. My reply to my family was to acknowledge, and be grateful for what they have. Instead of a decorated pine tree, I yearned to be in a warm place with tropical breezes, and beaches. Hence, instead of a pine tree I decided to have a coconut Christmas tree. The picture above doesn't do it justice. It was a family project that included us all.
As you can guess from the pictures, we are headed to the Dominican Republic. It will be our first time visiting. We look forward to explore the colonial zone in Santo Domingo, and enjoy the beach in Punta Cana. More than anything, I can't wait to see real coconut trees, and eat tropical food!
Finally, the kids were using a Venn diagram to compare and contrasts the beetle's and butterfly's life cycle. They recorded facts from their notes and their calendars. In all, it took us approximately two months to see all the stages. We purchased the mealworms from our local pet store (50 units for $2.99) on November 1st. The caterpillars arrived at our house on November 10th (Carolina biological supply $6.99). The butterflies lasted about three weeks, we still have all the beetles.
The kids were able to take the butterflies out to let them fly freely in the learning space. The butterflies ate a mixture of sugary water and juice from fruits like bananas, oranges, and watermelon. The kids placed the butterflies on the leaves of our orchid plant. Big Sister loves the picture in the middle since she believes the butterflies were holding hands (note: click to see an enlarged picture).
The mealworms are still with us. We continue to provide food and moisture for them.
This was an incredible experience with lots of surprises, and discoveries. For the price of $10 we were able to feel like entomologist!
Above you can see the stages in their folders during over a month of observations. Also, Big Sister was trying to color a newly transformed beetle. She had the real beetle next to her picture to give her a color reference. Looking at this picture, I understand why they thought it was a lighting bug.
Here is an update regarding the caterpillars. They had all transformed into chrysalis. We moved them to the butterfly environment as we patiently waited for their own metamorphosis to take place. Then they started to emerge as beautiful painted lady butterflies.
Above, the kids were drawing the butterflies. If you look at the blackboard by the wall, you will see a record of all the changes comparing both types of insects.
In this post, I will share the next stage of the mealworm cycle. This is the beetle stage. It was a lot of fun to see the kids discover their beetles. I need to clarify that I have been an observer in the whole process, and they truly had no idea what was going to happen. When they found the pupas moving and changing, they were not sure of their future. As the new creature emerged, after undergoing the amazing metamorphosis, my kids were convinced that we had lighting bugs! The color of the new beettle is very pale with a hint of brown on their head. I didn't correct them. I encouraged them to write their findings, and to continue to observe them.
The kids decided to removed all the pupas from their mealworm habitat, and transfer them to an empty container. They understood by this time that pupas didn't eat. They wanted to separate them to see their transformation.
Here is a picture of some of their writing. Although we talked, and they wrote about it in Spanish, it was a great joy to hear them share the news with their dad in English.
The next day, the new beetles had changed their color. Some turned brown, others turned black. These are amazing creatures to study. They are very friendly, and clean. They do not bite, or try to escape. Finally, they are super easy to take care of, and since their habitat is made out of oats and grains, they smell great.
While observing the mealworm pupa, Little Guy ran to look for one of his life cycle replicas. We compared the bee pupa stage with the mealworm pupa. They had a lot of similarities specially in terms of legs, shape, eyes, and general color. We got the bee life cycle set from safari ltd. through Amazon.
The caterpillars finished their growing stage. They have started to climb to the top of the container to hang themselves in preparation for their next step.
We were lucky enough to watch a mealworm emerge as a pupa. It was an unforgettable experience. The mealworm slowly shed its skin. First we thought it was simply molting as it had done before. But we quickly realized it was emerging with a different body. Its color was an opaque white, almost translucent.
Above, the kids were observing the mealworms. We tried to measure and record their growth.
By this time, one of Big Sister's mealworm had transformed into a pupa. Since I didn't say a word before hand, the kids thought it had died. Looking at it with a magnifying lens, and even the microscope, they noted certain features unique to this stage of their life. Finally, as we moved the pupa to another container, it moved. This was clue enough for them to know that it was still alive!
After they agreed that it was not dead, I show them a picture of the third stage of the mealworm life cycle. They recorded their observations.
The caterpillars kept on growing and eating and changing. We observed more hairs, change in color, and silk around their cup.