San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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November 11th, 2009
Butterflies provide beautiful science lessons

B1BarbaraPower&CC Perry1Teacher Barbara Power and C.C. Perry examine Painted Lady Butterfly.

STAFF REPORT

Painted Lady butterflies from egg to larva to flight grew in the San Marcos High School library under the watchful eyes and careful tending of students.

The project was funded by an award high school librarian Sandra Plumb from the San Marcos Education Foundation’s “Explore Science” funding. Plumb used the grant she received last year to purchase science models and displays for the library showing new science books and fulfilling San Marcos CISD’s goal of promoting science. Among the displays is the amazing butterfly habitat.

“We started with 30 caterpillars for Painted Lady butterflies and watched them grow from pupas to the adult butterfly stage,” said Plumb. “As adults, the butterflies laid hundreds of eggs, so we raised a second generation— having the opportunity to witness the entire life cycle from egg to larva to pupa to adult.”

Raising butterflies is not an easy task. Plumb said the caterpillars required certain foods but there were so many “library larvae” that they ate the supplied plants down to the stumps.

“We had to transfer the larvae to plastic containers and feed them a special artificial diet,” she said.

When butterflies are in the pupa stage, their habitat needs to stay moist and humid so the students and library staff misted inside the habitat several times a day. Adults need flower nectar for food but because there were more butterflies than flowers, the student scientists made “flowers” out of paper towels soaked in sugar water.

According to Plumb, the butterflies drew quite a good crowd in the library.

“We learned a lot about the Painted Lady variety, such as what they eat, how to identify an egg, why they need heat, how long it takes for them to pupate, and more,” Plumb said.

Barbara Power’s class had been tracking the butterflies’ progress daily in the library and had been studying them since the eggs were laid out a month ago. That class participated in the butterfly release on Oct. 27.

The school is in the process of raising money to build a bigger self-sustaning habitat that needs no human interference with the natural cycle.

“A large habitat will not only give the butterflies more room to live but also allow nature to take its course so that the larvae don’t have to be raised in plastic containers and no artificial food sources will have to be provided,” said Plumb.

She also added that the last batch of adult butterflies laid some eggs on the library host plants, so the school library may be seeing a third generation soon.
B3group outside with habitatGroup outside enjoys habitat.

B2CC Perry & Barbara PowerC.C. Perry and Barbara Power examine a butterfly.

B4released butterflyOne of the beautiful released Painted Lady butterflies.

B5Sandra Plumb and habitatSandra Plumb with habitat.

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