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Looking for something fun to keep the kids busy indoors? How about some butterfly crafts? They are pretty and fun to do. Although butterflies may not seem to be in keeping with the season, sometimes we just need a reminder that summer is on the way. 🙂

Our tried-and-true favorite craft is making a coffee filter butterfly.

Gather:

  • Basket-style coffee filters
  • Markers (not permanent)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Water
  • Newspaper or paper towels
  • Large paper clips
  • Chenille stems (pipe cleaners)
  • Yarn (optional)

Lay some newspapers or paper towels on a waterproof work surface to prevent marker stains. Have the children color on the coffee filter with the markers. Then lightly “paint” over the marker with water. The colors should spread together. Allow the coffee filters to dry while you read a favorite story about butterflies. Then find the middle of one side of the coffee filter and start to feed the filter into the paperclip. Gather the center into the paperclip, forming a body. In the past I had used chenille stems (pipe cleaners), but found the paper clip forms a more stable body that allows for the attachment of the antennae, which is piece of chenille stem (pipe cleaner) twisted on. You can also attach a fairly long piece of yarn (1 ½ or two feet) so the butterfly can hang in front of a window or “fly” along behind a child. You might want to make a whole bunch.

coffee filter butterfly

By the way, did you know chenille is French for caterpillar? Seems appropriate.

If you want to add some science, take a look at some pictures of butterflies. Notice that butterflies often have spots or patterns at the edges of the wings. Some people have suggested that those spots help protect the butterfly because they entice birds to peck at the margins of the wings, allowing the butterfly to escape.

gulf fritillary

If you are ready for more, Enchanted Learning has a lot of butterfly crafts for the younger set.

For the older set, this video might give you some ideas.

Paperstudio.com making paper butterflies

Hope this gives you some good ideas. Enjoy!

It’s all about energy this morning.  I stepped outside to recharge my batteries and found painted lady butterflies everywhere. This time to year the painted ladies (Vanessa cardui) are migrating south, with rest stops in places like Phoenix where they can bask in the sun and drink lot’s of nectar from the pretty flowers everyone plants.

It’s in the low 50’s this morning, so the first butterflies I saw were basking on a wall with their wings directed to catch the sun. They are like mini-solar panels.

painted lady

Why are they basking? Insects bask in the sun to warm the flights muscles prior to flying.

I knew where there were some lantana plants in the sun, so I went to see what was going on there.

painted lady

More painted lady butterflies basking and drinking nectar. They weren’t cooperative at first, but after sitting still on a cold sidewalk for a few minutes, I was able to get a few good shots.

painted lady

painted lady

painted lady

Here's one basking on a Texas sage.

painted lady

Seeing all these beautiful butterflies was a real charge for me. I hope other people notice them too.

If you are interested in learning more, or if you see painted ladies migrating and you'd like to participate in a study, check out the 2008 Vanessa Migration Project.

What would you do if you found one of these bright red creatures in your yard?

pipevine caterpillarpipevine caterpillar

You should cheer because they are the caterpillars of the beautiful pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor). We found these at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Arizona.

The bright red caterpillars will turn into one of these butterflies.

pipevine butterfly

Check out the gorgeous metallic blue on the lower parts.

I should admit right away that it is extremely difficult to get a good photograph of a pipevine swallowtail butterfly. The butterflies have a behavior known as “flutter feeding” which mean their wings are in almost constant motion. This one was on the floor in a public place, so I suspect it may have been stepped on. Too bad.

The caterpillars of the pipevine swallowtail feed on plants called pipevines (Aristolochia species), hence the name. The plant is a small, drab vine and is hard to spot. I am grateful to my friend who pointed out this one. Edit: My friend says this plant is Aristolochia watsonii.

pipevine plant

The plants contain a nasty chemical called aristolochoic acid that deters most animals from feeding on them. The ability to feed on pipevine plants is a unique feature of these caterpillars.

The caterpillars change size and color as they grow. You may also see pipevine caterpillars that look like the ones above, but are black instead of red.  The larger, older caterpillars are often found resting on plants besides their hosts (the ones they feed on). The caterpillar above is not on a pipevine.

On the same day we also saw this little butterfly.

bordered patch butterflybordered patch butterfly

This is the adult of the bordered patch (Chlosyne lacinia). In some books it might be called a lacinia checkerspot. This little guy is really quite battered.

The bordered patch species is also quite variable in color, like the caterpillars of the pipevine. The North American Butterfly Association has a page of photographs of members of this species. You will see this dark color version towards the bottom. How did anyone ever figure out they were all the same species?

I was not surprised to learn the bordered patch caterpillars feed on sunflowers (as well as ragweed). Here is the garden that was only a few feet away from where I found the butterfly. If you want to raise butterflies, just plant a few of these.

sunflower garden