Butterflies and Kids
Children are naturally attracted to butterflies and moths, just as they are to birds. However, unless you have a busy bird feeder or larger raptors flying around, it can be difficult for kids to locate birds in the wild. Songbirds do not typically sit still long enough to be seen and can quickly disappear as fast as they arrive. I myself have a hard time seeing many of the birds I hear fluttering around the trees and shrubs.
It wasn’t until I observed hundreds of butterflies and moths that I realized they could be easier for kids to approach than birds. I would just tell the kids, “If you chase the butterfly, you are probably not going to catch it. If you let it fly around and settle down, then you can learn its new resting position. You can then sneak up with out alarming it.” I learned that half the fun for kids is trying to get as close as possible without spooking it and trying to capture it with a butterfly net.
Young Naturalist D and a Great Spangled Fritillary
With a quick swipe of the butterfly net you can safely capture a specimen to view it for a longer period of time. Placing the butterfly or moth in a clear plastic container allows you to view it in its natural resting position. After you make your observation you can safely release the insect back into the wild.
While the insect is inside the container, record your observations in a field journal. Take you time and look carefully to appreciate its natural beauty. The sketches in your journal along with a field guide can help you identify the butterfly from the field marks on its wings.
Boy and Long-dashed Skipper
Butterflies and moths have unique colored scales on their wings. Some scientist believe that these scales evolved to help them avoid capture in spider webs. Because their scales are lost so easily when caught in a web, they can quickly escape without being eaten.
It is very important that the wings of butterflies or moths are not handled when captured. The oil from your fingers is enough to remove the scales from the wings and increase its chances of being caught in a spider web. All captives should thus be handled with as much care as possible.
Butterflies and moths give many opportunities to enjoy nature with kids, whether you’re visiting one of the many fine butterfly conservatories now available or just looking for butterflies and moths in your backyard.
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This post was part of an article I wrote for the Summer 2004 – Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Naturalist History – “Guide” Newsletter.