Are you looking for something fun to do? How about a free DIY garden project? The past couple months you may have noticed that your flowers are starting to have little holes everywhere or might look like they've been chewed on. That's because it's that time of year when caterpillars start thriving in the garden and we're not talking about Monarch butterflies unfortunately! Many varieties of moths (as well as the White Cabbage Butterfly) are now laying their eggs in ideal host plants. You might have noticed this most acutely if you grew Petunias in your garden or flower containers this year... Petunias are one of our favorite annuals and we have over 10 different varieties ourselves growing throughout our gardens so needless to say, it can be quite frustrating to see newly-forming buds just opening only to find out they've been half eaten by Tobacco Budworms. It's a burden and an annoyance for all gardeners everywhere...
However, this particular article is not about how to fight the battle against moth caterpillars invading your garden. Instead, we thought it would be fun to show everyone how you can turn that frown into a smile (at least slightly) by using those caterpillars to create a science project that's easy to do with children. It's a great way to demonstrate the beauty of nature and educate them on the various stages of caterpillar metamorphosis. And best of all, you can do it for free!
The moth caterpillar you're probably most familiar with if you're a gardener is the Cabbage Looper, otherwise known as the Cabbage Worm. It is smooth, green and is called a looper because of the way it arches its back when it moves. They are known to host on tomatoes, cabbages, cucumbers, etc. although we've seen them (along with Tobacco Budworms) feeding mostly on our Petunias and Geraniums in Connecticut. These caterpillars are members of the brown moth family.
Expand the project by collecting a variety of caterpillars - some butterfly and some moths varieties. You'll notice butterflies and moths go through metamorphosis in very different ways. Have your children feed the caterpillars everyday and write down the changes they see as the caterpillars begin to pupate. Don't forget the fun of releasing them outside when they hatch and take lots of pictures and videos (like we did below) to lock up those memories! :)
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