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If you are interested in plants and you get the opportunity, visit the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden in Dallas, Texas. I visited last weekend and it was gorgeous.

It was also a great opportunity to study insects as well as plants.

Take this painted lady butterfly. It is feeding on the nectar from a zinnia. Butterflies are attracted to flowers with a wide, flat place to perch.

This butterfly is sitting on the petals of a coreopsis or tickseed flower in a similar way.

Do you recognize it? It is a variegated fritillary. The larvae feed on passion flowers and also purslane, both of which were growing in the gardens.

Having a diverse collection of plants increases the likelihood a butterfly will find the right ones to complete its life cycle.

Here a duskywing skipper is resting on a columbine leaf. If this is a wild indigo duskywing, it's larvae feed on wild indigo and lupines. Lupines were growing in the rock garden nearby.

The plants do not need to be unusual. Even common ornamentals like this old-fashioned rose can support insects.

We found this honey bee in the children's gardens, gathering nectar from a cilantro plant that had been allowed to flower. Growing herbs is a good way to support pollinators.

From the plant's perspective, a diversity of local pollinators like this flower fly can also ensure that a plant is properly pollinated.

Plants and insects go together, so growing a variety of plants in a garden is win-win.

Have you ever been to the Dallas Arboretum?

Painted lady butterflies are in the news this week. First of all, they are migrating in huge numbers in southern California.

Check out short video of the butterflies streaming across a field by South Coast research. Amazing!

The numbers of painted ladies are higher this year because of seasonal rains that caused a flush of their food plants. Here in Arizona we have seen smaller numbers of painted ladies migrating in both February and fall (links to previous posts).

If you'd like to see how to identify these butterflies, learn more about their migrations, and/or participate in a citizen science project, visit the Red Admiral and Painted Lady Research Site at Iowa State University

With perfect timing the fabulous new picture book that showcases the life cycle of painted ladies for the youngest readers, Butterflies in Room 6: See How They Grow by Caroline Arnold, also emerged on March 12, 2019.

Follow along with the children in Mrs. Best's kindergarten class as they hatch painted lady caterpillars from eggs, feed the caterpillars a special diet, and wait patiently for the butterflies to emerge from their chrysalids. As you can see from the book cover, nothing is as mesmerizing as a freshly-eclosed live butterfly!

Caroline Arnold is both the author and photographer for the book and she has captured some fun and incredible images of both the insects and the children. Her 2017 book with a similar format, Hatching Chicks in Room 6, was a winner of the Cybils Award for Elementary Nonfiction.

Back matter includes answers to questions about butterflies, a vocabulary list, links to butterfly information online and suggestions for further reading about butterflies.

Butterflies in Room 6 is a must have to accompany a unit on insects or project raising painted lady butterflies. Fly out and get a copy today!

Related Activities:

1. Explore butterfly and moth metamorphosis.

A painted lady butterfly undergoes a number of changes during its lifetime, from egg to larva to pupa to adult.

You can see the process in this time lapse of caterpillars raised in the classroom. The brown mixture is the artificial diet they use as food.

Why do you think the painted lady caterpillars are so spiky?

This is a painted lady caterpillar on a hollyhock leaf.

Models of Painted Lady Butterfly Life Stages

Create a poster of a butterfly or moth life cycle

Gather:

  • Poster board, construction or craft paper
  • Crayons, markers and/or colored pencils
  • Yarn (optional)
  • Age-appropriate scissors
  • Glue, tape
  • Photographs or clip art of caterpillars, butterflies and moths

Choose a particular butterfly or moth and learn about what each stage looks like in its life cycle. Gather images. Plan where each stage should go in the cycle:  egg, caterpillar (larva), chrysalis or cocoon, and adult butterfly or moth. Leave room for a title at the top. Either draw each of the stages, or cut out photographs and paste or tape them on. Draw arrows between the stages or connect them with yarn. Put on a title and display the poster. Tell others about what you have learned.

2. Plant a butterfly garden

Start with Butterfly Gardening with Children which has links to a week of butterfly gardening posts, including Five great nectar plants for butterflies

If you'd like to encourage painted ladies, grow plants their larvae prefer. Painted lady caterpillars will eat a variety of weeds like thistles, but also some cultivated plants or wildflowers like sunflowers, mallows, including hollyhocks, yarrow, and ironweeds (Vernonia sp.) Check with your local butterfly societies for local native plants to grow.

Butterflies Book info:
Age Range: 3 - 7 years
Publisher: Charlesbridge (March 12, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1580898947
ISBN-13: 978-1580898942

Want to read more? See our growing list of children's books about butterflies and moths at Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: This book was provided for review by the publisher. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books. Note: this is a new link as of 10/2018.

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Look who visited the flowers in our yard this week:

It is a painted lady butterfly.

In addition to flowers for nectar, we also have hollyhocks because they are a larval food plant.

If you grow it, they will come.