We have caterpillars! The eggs that we watched a Black Swallowtail butterfly lay in the garden a few days ago have hatched and the little caterpillars have begun eating the leaves. Hopefully our weather will stay mild and be better suited to their growth than last year's hot summer. If so, within a couple weeks we should have a few big caterpillars to catch so we can watch them transform!

...And, we finally got our first taste out of our garden!  There were lots of beautiful snap peas ready for us to pick today!  We learned how to tell if the pod is ready to be picked (fat, not skinny!), and we learned the best way to pick the peas so that the whole plant doesn't come with!  None of the peas actually made it to the house, though...they were just to delicious to save! :)
We got to watch a Black Swallowtail butterfly lay some eggs in the garden today! And so the cycle begins again! We are all excited for these eggs to turn into tiny little caterpillars, so we can watch them grow and change as we have for several years now. I think this might be the first time we have gotten to see the egg portion of the life cycle though, so that was new and exciting. If you would like to read more about our adventures in caterpillar-raising, click here!

Our butterfly hatched
    I walked past our caterpillar jar early this morning and noticed that I could see the black wings and yellow spots through our chrysalis, so I knew it wouldn't be long before our butterfly made it's appearance.  I told the kids we should make sure to check on it this morning, hoping to show them what I had seen, but by the time we all got out there the butterfly had already come out!  We must have just barely missed it though, because it's wings were still all folded and wrinkled, so it was fun for the kids to be able to see that.

The kids were really excited and asked great questions, like "What will the butterflly eat?" and "When is it going to fly?"  So, we watched it pump up and stretch out its wings, and we found its "proboscis" and talked about how that rolls out to become like a straw that it drinks flower nectar through.  Once we had all had a chance to get a good look at it,
...I carefully moved the stick that the butterfly was clinging to out of the glass jar and into the mesh butterfly house.  Since I have just a small group here today, I am hoping that we can safely keep it in the mesh house until tomorrow when a few more of the kids will have a chance to see it, and then set it free.
We gathered up a few flowers and orange slices and put them in  the butterfly house, so there will be some nectar available in case our butterfly gets hungry before tomorrow.
Then, hopefully she will fly out to our garden and lay her eggs on our Angelica plants so we can find them later and witness the full life cycle!
    As I think most of you have heard, our first caterpillar of the summer, "Ted" got out of our jar when we accidentally left the lid off...oops! :)  And, since we have had such a hot and dry summer, our caterpillar population has been almost wiped out.  We actually had to find a caterpillar from my in-laws' house in order to see the rest of the process!
    Well, over the weekend our second "Ted" made its chysalis so hopefully in about two weeks, we will have a beautiful Black Swallowtail butterfly to set free!
    We have been anxiously watching the tiny caterpillars in the garden get bigger and bigger!  I told the kids we had to wait to catch one until they were almost big enough to make a cocoon (so we wouldn't have to try to keep giving them fresh leaves every day for weeks!).  So, when they all spotted a "really big one!" on their way into the house this morning, they knew today was the day! :) 
The kids have decided to name him "Ted."  :) Ted is a black swallowtail caterpillar and eats plants like Dill, Queen Anne's Lace, and Angelica (which is the plant we have).  Hopefully we will get to see the whole process of him turning into a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly!  Since we have watched a caterpillar up close for several summers in a row now and know what is coming, we are excited to watch what happens next!
    One of the kids also brought a different kind of caterpillar to show us today.  It was one I was not familiar with, but I have found an excellent website for identifying caterpillar species.  In case any of you ever need to identify a caterpillar for your little bug lover, here is the link:  discoverlife.org.  It is so fun when they understand that the caterpillars are going to turn into something else, and it is really fun to be able to show them what it will look like.  I will add this link to the links on my Resources page, too so it will be easy to find when you need it.  ; )