Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Giant Swallowtail Butterfly in our garden.

Here are three critters that are fun and easy for kids to raise and enjoy.
LEVEL 1: SUPER EASY     DURATION: Keep it for a day or two, then let it go.
Can you see him? It's a sowbug AKA isopod. You can find two types in most gardens; those that roll up into a ball are the slower type. The 'sprinters' are the other type of sowbug and are usually found in compost heaps. They are gone in a flash leaving behind these slow ones. Keep them in a jar with compost, soil, leaves and a few bits of fresh lettuce. They are easy to play with and perfectly harmless.

LEVEL 2: The Ant Lion  DURATION: Keep it for a week and see what happens.
See the pit? If you click on the image you can see what's left of the last ant meal.

The ant lion scoots backwards and tosses dirt around when you pick it up. Leave them alone after you find them so that it can make a pit and eat ants.

The ant lion shown here is named ARIZONA. So in a way, I'm raising Arizona (bad pun).
Ant lion pits can be found anywhere there is dry soil such as under eaves of buildings. I've also seen them next to large, slanting trees that block the rain. Feed ant lions any type of ant. I prefer feeding them FIRE ANTS. For kids, put a small drop of honey on a sidewalk and you'll find sugar ants. These are better for kids. Leave FIRE ANTS alone. The ant lion will eventually turn into a lovely damselfly-type creature.

LEVEL 3: Swallowtail butterflies..... for the true naturalist 
 DURATION: 14 days of intense feeding cycles for the larval stage and another 14 days of watching for the pupal stage

You can find  'red dogs' on citrus plants here in the South. They are large gray and white caterpillars camouflaged to look like bird droppings. I don't have a picture since mine has already turned into the next phase. 

After 14 days, you MUST provide a stick for the Giant Swallowtail caterpillar. It will climb it and transform into a twig in one of Nature's magnificent camouflage events.

Giant Swallowtail caterpillars eat about 3 leaves PER DAY from any type of citrus tree.

Time for the waiting game. The Giant Swallowtail will come out of the chrysalis in about 14 days. I put a napkin on the top to allow plenty of air flow and no moisture build up. The chrysalis will become transparent the day before the butterfly emerges. You'll have to get up at 5:00 am for the chance to see it emerge. Most emerge in the morning between 5 and 10:00 am.
For the very best information on raising a butterfly larva for kids, visit this link called Kids and Caterpillars:

Thanks for stopping by our garden.
David/ Tropical Texana/ Houston :-)

1 comment:

  1. Very nice post with wonderful shots!
    Don't like those little critters very much though! But I remember I liked watching the ant lions when I was a child in my native country Portugal;o)
    Thanks for sharing;o)
    ¤ Happy day ¤


I always appreciate your comments & questions! Happy Gardening from David/ Tropical Texana

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