Category Archives: Kids Gardening Projects

Monarch Caterpillar Eggs

The last few days I have been searching for Monarch caterpillar eggs.  Monarch butterflies have been visiting my garden for the last week or two so I am assuming that they have been laying eggs on the milkweed.  This will be my third year raising Monarch caterpillars.

Monarch Caterpillar Eggs Ready to Hatch

Because this is my third year, I now know what Monarch caterpillar eggs look like.  Here is a picture of one that is quite new.  So as I search, I recognize them much more quickly.  I had been watching two eggs for the last two days.  Today the top of the egg became much darker.  So I knew that the caterpillar was about to emerge.  These are a great series of pictures of the monarch caterpillar egg hatching.  You can clearly see the black head of the caterpillar at the top of the egg which is what I saw today.

Growing Monarch Caterpillars in the House

The first year I had lots of caterpillars and then slowly they started disappearing until I could hardly find any.  They were being eaten in my garden.  See my post about Saving the Monarch Caterpillar.

Baby Monarch CaterpillarWhen I saw that the caterpillars were about to emerge today I cut the leaves off to bring into the house.  I like raising the caterpillars in the house.  The last two years I have raised between 20-24 Monarch butterflies successfully.  It’s quite easy to raise them if you have lots of milkweed leaves to feed them, which I have. Here is a picture of the monarch caterpillar a few hours after it had emerged.  You can see it compared to a dime.  They are very small when they first emerge, almost like you can’t see them.   They eat voraciously and grow very fast.

Bad News About the Monarch Caterpillar Eggs

Unfortunately my two baby caterpillars died.  I think that the milkweed leaf that I had in with them got too dried up.  I am heartbroken and devastated.  They had actually crawled off the leaf.  I found them and put them back on.  Now, in retrospect, I think they were looking for more moisture. After doing some research on the internet I found this great article on raising baby monarch caterpillars.  THE LEAVES THAT THEY FEED ON SHOULD BE LEFT IN WATER OR SPRAYED WITH WATER TO KEEP THEM MOIST!

As a Beginner Collect Larger Caterpillars

This was a hard lesson for me.  All the caterpillars that I raised in the past were larger than these newly hatched babies.  They were stronger and seemed fine with the milkweed leaves that I put in for them to eat.  I replaced the milkweed leaves every day when they started looking old.  So if you are a beginner I would recommend raising larger caterpillars at first until you become an expert at that.  Then if you want to raise them from eggs keep the leaf stems in water so the leaves stay hydrated.  The link above has very good information about raising Monarchs from eggs.

 

Worm Composting Home Schooling Project

It’s a great time to start a worm composting home schooling project.  Really with home schooling anytime is a great time to start a worm composting project because you aren’t tied to schedules like in the public schools.

Worms in the Worm BinKids love worms!  Of course some kids are grossed out by worms.  I have found, through my experiences, even the most girly girl can get excited about worms if she can wear gloves; so she doesn’t have to actually touch the worms.  My granddaughter who would never dream of touching a worm gets really interested in the worms if she can wear disposable gloves. And the gloves don’t even fit her and it doesn’t matter!

Go-green with a Worm Composting Home Schooling Project

There are so many things to talk about and teach with worm composting.

  1. Biology of the worm and reproducing.
  2. Environment-Recycling kitchen waste-Keeping it out of the landfills.
  3. Composting
  4. Experiment with growing seedlings with worm compost and without.

So as you can see there is so much to learn from a worm composting home schooling project.  Let’s discuss each subject in a little more detail

Biology of the Composting Worm

You might not be ready to teach about reproduction depending on the age of your home-schoolers.  There is plenty of other subject matter on the biology of the composting worm.

  1. How they digest the food scraps and turn them into compost.
  2. The parts of their body
  3. How they live in the dark
  4. How they live in a community
  5. Differences between composting worms and night crawlers.

Kids are very delighted when they can feed the worms with their old banana peels, apple cores or cucumber peels and within a week these food scraps have disappeared.  It is truly a miracle to watch how the worms transform our kitchen waste into a great amendment for the soil.

Lastly you could experiment with how worms live.  Your children could do a project on how composting worms are different than night crawlers.  There are lots of  opportunities for hands-on learning with composting worms!

Protecting Our Environment With Worm Composting

By composting our kitchen scraps, we are protecting our environment.  We waste a huge amount of food and it all ends up in the landfills!  After you start your worm composting project you can figure up how much kitchen waste you send to the landfill and then multiply that amount by all the people on your street and in your city.  It is a mindboggling amount of food waste.  Just imagine if it all could be recycled into compost and used for growing our food!  There are quite a few math problems that could be incorporated into your worm composting projects!

Experiments with Using Worm Compost

Lastly you could teach your children how to set up experiments to see if the worm compost really helps plants.  Within this process you could be teaching about the scientific method and how to conduct good experiments.  Of course these experiments would have to happen a few months after you start because it takes 3-4 months for the worms to great a worm bin full of worm compost!

Buy My PowerPoint Video, an Intro to Worm Composting!

I have created an informational PowerPoint video turned into a movie, as an Introduction to Worm Composting. It is an excellent narrated presentation using my photos, text and video clips for a great Intro to Worm Composting. I give you a heads up about what mistakes I have made so you won’t have to make them yourself! You can download the Power Point/video to your computer for $1.99 or rent it for $.99. Click on this link which will take you to Gumroad, a secure site, where I sell my products:

  1. Click on Rent or Buy depending on which you want to do.
  2. Click on “I Want This”.  Gumroad processes your payment and then you will be able to download my video.

Here is a preview of my PowerPoint video:  the Introduction and Chapter 1:

Carrots and Black Swallowtail Butterflies

Carrots and Black Swallowtail butterflies are very connected in a way that I never knew about.  Late last summer, I learned why there is a good second reason to grow carrots (check out last post) besides just to harvest carrots.  This happened totally in a serendipitous way.  I was sitting on my porch where the planter is and a Black Swallowtail butterfly kept landing on the carrots leaves.  He would land on one, stay a minute and then flit away and then come back and land on another.  He kept doing this.

What is this about Carrots and Black Swallowtail Butterflies??

Carrots and Black Swallowtail Butterflies EggWhen I examined a leaf,  lo and behold there was a tiny butterfly egg on it.  You can see the little white ball on the leaf!  So I guess it was no “he” but a she and she was laying plenty of eggs!!  Wow this was exciting!!  I didn’t know that carrots were a host plant for the Black Swallowtail butterfly.  Host plants include dill, celery, parsley, Queen Ann’s lace, wild carrot, anise and parsnips and I guess regular carrots though they weren’t listed in Wikipedia.  So here we were with lots of Black Swallowtail eggs on our carrot plants.  Hmm… Carrots and Black Swallowtail Butterflies who would have imagined!!  I knew about Monarchs and Milkweed which I had growing in another part of my garden but I didn’t know that carrots were a host plant for Black Swallowtail butterflies.  What a wonderful way to find out!! Live and learn all the time!!

Carrots and Black Swallowtail Butterflies Continued!

Black Swallowtail CaterpillarSo I started keeping an eye on all these eggs that this butterfly laid.  Small little black furry caterpillars emerged.  They were so small at first,  they were barely noticeable.  Then they started eating the carrot foliage.  It wasn’t so bad at first.  But then there were a lot of them and they got bigger and bigger.  There are different stages of caterpillars for the Black Swallowtail butterfly.  At first they look totally different than what they end up being.  Not like the Monarch caterpillar that maintains its same look throughout the caterpillar transformations.   At first they are black and furry and then they end up being very smooth and colorful.  There are  pictures of all the instar larval stages at this link for the Black Swallowtail butterfly.

I was starting to get a little upset because these caterpillars were just going to town on the carrot leaves.  I could see that Caterpillars ate all the carrot leaves!there would be none left.  So you can see from the picture on the left that I was correct.  Then I thought that they would probably grow back (which they eventually did).  I fantasized about bringing some caterpillars in the house to protect them from predators but I didn’t know if I had enough carrot leaves to feed them.  I also thought if I pick carrot leaves to feed them in the house the leaves would die quickly, they are rather delicate.Then they would have nothing to eat.  Carrot leaves are not like milkweed leaves.  Milkweed leaves last for a few days after you pick them.  In the end it all worked out.  The caterpillars had enough to eat.  They all left when it was time to make their chrysalis.  One caterpillar crawled up on our porch brick wall and made a chrysalis.  It is still there.

Black Swallowtail ChrysalisI read that if they make a chrysalis in late summer they will overwinter and emerge in the spring.  So I am waiting….. Here is a pic of the chrysalis.  If you look very closely you can see the silk that is attaching it to the wall.  I hope that I get to see this butterfly emerge.

So as you can see growing carrots was a great experience in more ways than one.  We did harvest nice, fat carrots and we got lots of Black Swallowtail caterpillars to watch.  It was a great learning adventure!  I will definitely plant more carrots this year for us and the butterflies!!