Sunday 27 April 2014

Winged Beauties - An afternoon with butterflies!

Spring break for us is 3 weeks long, as opposed to 2 weeks generally, as A is still in nursery and not in formal school yet. There are a lot of events that are scheduled in museums (not malls), parks ( not indoor play areas) and libraries (not gaming zones). We generally make it a point to visit 3-4 such events during such mid-term breaks as it gives us a good opportunity to go out and explore practical experiences and also spend a lot of fun time together!

This time, Natural History Museum had a 'Sensational Butterflies' event to ring in the advent of spring. They had set up an outdoor, tropical butterfly house, where they had hundreds of butterflies (species brought in from different parts of the world) alongwith caterpillars and eggs for the little curious kids to experience the life-cycle of the beautiful creatures.

It was a wonderful experience for A and me, especially for A, because she got to see the creatures outside of the book. This was an extension for her of her very favourite book, 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' by Eric Carle. I have written a record and review of the book at my blog, My Tiny Caterpillar, if you would want to take a look. She must have told me at least a dozen times that she LOVED the place. She pointed out multi-coloured and different sized butterflies with excitement and delight to me. She squealed with mischief when some of the butterflies that were flying all around us settled for some time on my shoulder or my bag. It was a great experience and I had taken loads of photos. This challenge gave me the idea to put the event up as a post for posterity. There are a lot of pictures in this post, so I hope this is more enjoyable than reading all that I write, most of the time ;-) And, yes, I want to bring to notice that I have not enhanced any of the pictures, they are all posted here just the way I clicked them! Nature's beauty in all its glory!! So here goes!

This was the green house structure that was made for the exhibition. The temperatuer inside was maintained at around 26-28 degrees, I would guess, as compared to the 11 degrees that was outside! Yes, that's spring for you - don't let the sun fool you, my India friends :-)

When we entered, the first thing we noticed were butterflies! Fluttering around everywhere!! And they were really large ones.  My little A almost started shrieking whenever any butterfly came within arm's distance of her - it took her a while to get friendly with them. She loves them, but they had never been so close to her! Haha!

This picture below shows the eggs under the microscope. Enchanting, isn't it? Look at the picture of the Camberwell butterfly with dozens of eggs on the stalk!

Now, have you ever seen any of these for real? We did, for the very first time in our lives! :-) The people at the exhibition had to show us where to look, we would never have found them ourselves. They are really tiny. And they do not look to your eye the way they look on that picture above!

Don't they remind you of the little thermocol balls that you use to fluff up the bean bags? We were fascinated. 

The caterpillar inside the egg, when it is ready to come out, uses its jaws to gnaw through the egg. 

The next was a placard placed amidst shrubbery saying, 'Can you spot something interesting here?'. We looked and looked, but couldn't find anything. I again had to go looking for the organiser, who came back with a friendly smile and showed us these lovelies!

Oh my God! I had not seen A so excited in a while! This was the most exciting part of the exhibition for her. She gazed and gazed at the creepy crawlies and was fascinated. She looked at me and said, 'Amma, I love this exhibition!'. My sweet little adorable girl! :-) 

I really liked the way the below information was given about who are friends and foes of caterpillars. The top circle referred to the creature spoken about (ants, squirrel, birds and caterpillars - from left to right) and the bottom one asked 'Friend or Foe?' on one side. When you have guessed your answer, you need to flip the circle to check your answer! Perfect to hold the interest of kids! :-)

We all know that caterpillars eat a lot of food, again thanks to Eric Carle and his lovely book. But what happens when it gets too fat for its original skin? Read on!

Check the caterpillar shedding its old skin in the above picture! 
The caterpillar then one day, builds itself a chrysalis and hibernates inside to become a butterfly. 

In our dream world, we thought butterflies just fly out of the chrysalis one day.. flutter, flutter... just like that. Well, thats not how it really happens. The butterfly comes out little by little and the wings are pretty much stuck and squished up. They are wet which the butterfly has to dry once it's out of the chrysalis. Behold, the beauty of nature and the phenomena of metamorphosis! :-) 

Just like I expected, A was disappointed. She really thought the butterfly would come flying out in all its brilliant colours. She was not very impressed with these images. I, on the other hand, was singing inside! It was sheer beauty! I was amazed at the hardened rock-like texture of the chrysalis and at the idea of a large creature coming out of something so tiny!

The organisers had brought in not only butterflies from all over, they also had brought in chrysalis'! So many of them, which made it possible for us to see this wonder of nature right  in front of our eyes!

Isn't it totally mind blowing!?!?! There were so many butterflies coming out it various stages of the process. We could even see water dripping out of the chrysalis. I was so glad we decided to come to this exhibition!

Some information and some trivia!

Ohh.. we haven't seen any butterflies in here yet, have we? :-) Here goes!

Let me tell you something fascinating. The two left side butterfly images are of the same butterfly! Yes!! It is called the Blue Morpho Butterfly, with this amazing blue shade when it opens up its wings. It has this brown underside with false 'eye-spots' to warn off predators! Coudnt't get that, could you? Me neither!

Right side images, from top to bottom, are of the Wayward Hawaiian butterfly and the famous Swallowtail Butterfly. I am not able to recollect the name of the green coloured beauty.

The Blue Morpho was very clearly the star of the show. They were present in large numbers and in the below photo, you can see a bunch of them feasting on orange and banana peels.

I have never been a nature gazer or a nature enthusiast; I have not participated in any such activities in my growing days that I can remember, even from school. This was one reason I was particularly happy I took A to this exhibition. It was a beautiful experience, knowing for real the life-cycle of these winged wonders. I am really happy to share this with you too! :-)

Hope you all really enjoyed this long post!! Do keep a check on any such exhibitions that come to your city. I guarantee a great experience!

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