Lessons in growth

24th February 1995 at 00:00
Schools can now breed their own butterflies, with the help of a new kit, writes Carol Boulter. The Painted Lady is a butterfly, a lovely summer visitor to the British Isles arriving from Africa in April or March and breeding here before returning to warmer climes in the autumn. You may have caught a glimpse of its orange, black and white wings on garden flowers or seen its spiky caterpillars on nettles. Now you can help children to examine closely in the classroom all the stages of the life history of this butterfly, using a specially-designed kit produced by Insect Lore called The Butterfly Garden.

The kit is produced in two forms. The cheaper version comes with five ready-hatched caterpillars, and the more expensive one with enough caterpillars, and vials to keep them in, for a class of 30. The right amount of nutrient for the vials is supplied.

You arrange with Insect Lore when you want the kit to arrive, so you can look after them as soon as they do. They will grow quickly, shedding their skins five times in the next 10 days or so, and then they hang from the lid of the vial, which does not need to be opened while they grow.

After a day hanging head down, they shed their skin to reveal a beautiful jewel-like golden chrysalis firmly fixed to the lid. The lid can be transferred to the cardboard Butterfly Garden Box, supplied flat for assembly, and attached with tape to the back.

The chrysalis may look quiet outside, but inside a transformation taking seven to10 days is happening. At the end of that time, the back of the chrysalis splits open and the adult butterfly struggles out into the cage and expands and dries its coloured wings.

The box contains a flower with a cotton wick which can be used to feed the emerged butterflies with sugar solution. The adult butterflies can be released into the wild and Insect Lore guarantees that most of your caterpillars will reach this final stage.

Keeping insects such as butterflies in the classroom is a great source for investigative work, from simple observations of the stages of the life cycle to studies of food preferences and survival at various stages.

It also provides a simple way of encouraging children to think about and look after the needs of a living things that you will not be saddled with for years the life history is over in three to four weeks, fitting conveniently into half a term.

Butterfly Garden School Kit: complete with five caterpillars and instructions, Pounds 16.13 plus VAT. Class kit with 30 caterpillars and nutrient, Pounds 31.45 plus VAT. Insect Lore Europe, Suite 6, Linford Forum, Linford Wood, Milton Keynes MK14 6LY

Insect Lore Products - stand 912

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