Science Watch – Releasing the Butterflies!

[04 Jul 2011]

Over the course of two days, 32 Painted Lady butterflies emerged from their chrysalides. The signal that they were about to emerge was when the colouring could be seen through the chrysalid shell. After they emerged, they rested while they pumped blood into their wings to get them to full size. This took a couple of hours. As they did this a red liquid came out from the tail of the butterfly, which looked like blood. Some keen observers of science watch made contact to see if they were all right! This liquid is called meconium, and is made up of left over colouring and unneeded tissues.

The butterflies were kept in the house for a couple of days. They were fed with a week mix of sugar and water while they got used to having large wings instead of many small legs.

On Wednesday, the butterflies were due to be released by members of the Environmental Action Group. This was a delicate operation involving gently scooping the butterflies from the base of the butterfly house, trying to get one while the rest flapped around your arm! This was unnerving for some of the members, but we were saved by Kane Hackett and Leroy Burton who became temporary butterfly whisperers.

The butterflies flew away from the quad, and as the Painted Lady is a migrating butterfly, they can fly thousands of miles to find food! We may get some eggs laid on nearby nettles or hollyhock leaves, and you may see them around during their two to five week lifespan.

Science watch is trained on the chickens, duck and ducklings in the quad at the moment.

Keep tuned to Science Watch for the next exciting project…