Nature Notes: Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly overwintering grounds in Mexico

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN for PBS. Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers.

This blog post complements a nature-based STEAM programming about butterflies and their life cycle.

Monarch Butterfly laying an egg on Common Milkweed

Monarch butterfly laying eggs on common milkweed, © Sean Kent

Monarch Caterpillar on it’s host plant Common Milkweed

Monarch caterpillar eating common milkweed, © Sean Kent
Monarch Caterpillar

Engineer a Butterfly Habitat

To engineer a butterfly habitat, you need to think about and create a list of what a butterfly needs to survive during it’s entire life cycle as an (i) egg, (ii) caterpillar, (iii) chrysalis, and (iv) butterfly. The following are a few things to think about when engineering a butterfly habitat.

  • Food 
    • Host plants for caterpillars
    • Nectar 
  • Water
  • Places to shelter or hide

After thinking about how to create a butterfly habitat, design your habitat to contain everything a butterfly needs and draw it on a piece of paper. After drawing your butterfly habitat, if you have a couple of pots for plants, a garden, or another area you could modify, you could engineer your own butterfly habitat.

To attract black swallowtail butterflies, you can plant parsley in your garden.

My Parsley Is Attracting Butterflies - Learn About Attracting ...
File:Black swallowtail caterpillar.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

How to Create a Nature Journal

Get outdoors and record your nature observations in your very own nature journal. You can make one with materials you have at home!

Barry Van Dusen’s Sketchbook Page of a Painted Lady Butterfly

If you’d like to learn about nature drawing, including drawing butterflies, enjoy this wonderful blog post by acclaimed artist Barry Van Dusen about Getting Started with Nature Journaling. Below is a sketch of painted lady butterflies.

Barry Van Dusen’s Sketchbook Page of a Monarch Butterfly

During his artist in residence, Barry Van Dusen visit …. and closely observed Monarch Butterflies. Here is an image of his sketchbook page from that day.

“On one liatris plant, I count eight Monarch butterflies – a phenomenal concentration of these handsome migratory insects, whose populations have been down in recent years.  There’s just time enough to do some sketches before I leave to catch the ferry at Vineyard Haven.”

~ Barry Van Dusen in Martha’s Vineyard

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