Sunday, July 12, 2009

Can I Have A Pet Butterfly, Daddy?

Butterfly PavilionMy son recently turned four and, like many four-year-old boys, he loves insects, lizards, cars and dinosaurs. One of the bug-related gifts he received was the Live Butterfly Pavilion from Insect Lore.

Insect Lore, as one might guess from their name, sells a wide variety of insect-oriented gifts including a number of live insect habitats (butterflies, praying mantises, and hissing cockroaches among others). We went with the butterflies so as not to give my wife the creeping willies for the duration. For less than $21.00 (Note: this is the current Amazon price; as far as I can tell, the same product is significantly more expensive at the manufacturer's website: $33.00), you get a two-foot-tall pop-up mesh pavilion/habitat along with a coupon to receive the caterpillars. Make sure that you order this product well in advance of when you want it because you not only need to wait for it to arrive, but you then need to send in the coupon for the caterpillars and then wait for them to arrive. [Note: they stick on another $5.00 charge to receive the caterpillars]. The caterpillars come in sealed containers that already have everything they need to survive until they emerge from their chrysalises.

While they do sell a package with only three to five caterpillars, we went for the one that comes with six to ten; we figured if we were going to all of this trouble, we wanted to end up with more than just two or three butterflies. We received ten caterpillars (the maximum possible) and within three or four days they attached themselves to the top of their containers and became chrysalides. Right on time, about a week later, they crawled out and voila! All ten had turned into caterpillars. A few more days and my son and I took them out (they walked right onto our hands) and let them go near his grandmother's butterfly bush. A good time was had by all. Even by my wife.

1) Great learning experience.
We got to watch the caterpillars crawl around, spin silk, and then make their chrysalises. Later, we got to see the butterflies just after they emerged (by chance, we missed the actual emergence), and beating their wings to pump the blood into them and make them rigid. Then we got to feed them and we could easily see them extending their proboscises down to drink. Hard to ask for more.
2) Fairly easy to use (but see Con #1, below). The pavilion just springs right up as soon as you open it, the caterpillars stay in their sealed containers until they're chrysalides, and when it's time to let them go you can either take them out by hand or just open up the top; the butterflies which are sent occur naturally throughout the continental United States. [Note: The caterpillars can only be mailed within the continental United States]. You obviously don't have to let them go if you don't want to and it does come with instructions for taking care of any young caterpillars which may be born.
3) Easy to reuse. Once the butterflies are gone, you can re-order more caterpillars whenever you'd like. (You have to pay for them, of course). The set comes with complete instructions on how to clean out and re-use the habitat.

1) Sometimes hard to get in and out of the pavilion.
The pavilion has two openings which zipper open and close that allow you to put the chrysalides in, to let the butterflies out, and to feed the butterflies. I'm not sure if it was placement or size or what, but we had a hard time using them. Having said that, however, I did manage to transfer the chrysalides without harming them and it took less than 30 minutes.
2) The butterflies that are sent do not look like the ones on the box. While they advertise, and send, Painted Lady butterflies I should warn you that the ones you get will probably not be as colorful as the ones that they advertise. I don't know if it's a matter of species (there are four different species of butterfly called Painted Lady) or something else, but only two or three of ours had any orange at all and none had the bright colorings shown on the box.

I hereby award this product TEN Happy Munchkins (out of ten)


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