Saturday, March 31, 2012

More Buddy-Writing Stories with Tui 1

 Here's a caterpillar life cycle game to play.

A review of this week's garden activities.
This week we have had a significant amount of chrysalises falling to the ground. Mrs Vincent and a few other students have found them. We suspect this could be from handling or from a disease. We do not exactly know why they are falling off – this needs some more research. There are  at-least 11 chrysalises hanging from thread and pegs in 3 separate containers. It is a very delicate process and it is not made for those with shaky hands. Today in the garden, people were trudging through our garden looking for lost cricket  or rugby balls.   As a result result of this, two more chrysalises fell.  Mrs Vincent was not happy about this.

We are still waiting on all of the chrysalises to hatch.  We think some might not make it as they have been dented. Our first chrysalis rescue was on the 26th of March and the most  recent was today at lunchtime. Shayla likes to call her self ‘Nurse Shayla’ as she has rescued many of our chrysalis patients.  She is very careful not to stress the chrysalis.

We have been keeping our eye on the South African ootheca (egg deposit)  that Mrs Vincent found. It has a woven pattern on it. First we identified the species of praying mantis and  decided whether to freeze it or keep it in the container. Some students have personal experiences of an ootheca hatching.

Some of the stories Tui 1 students (Years 3 and 4) wrote with Huia 1 students (Years 7 and 8) :


Caterpillars are black, yellow and white. They live in swan plants. They turn into chrysalises and then turn into a butterfly. They can die easily of a disease. Their feet are sticky to hang upside down. Caterpillars are very slow. They hang upside down on a leaf and curl into a j and then it sheds its skin and then it turns into a chrysalis. Butterflies are orange, black and white. Butterflies are able to fly, not like a caterpillars.
 Bridget  and Chloe

The Monach butterfly lays eggs first, then the eggs hatch into caterpillars. 
Next, it hangs  from a leaf and then it turns into a chrysalis. After the monach butterfly emerges, a while later,   it is  ready to fly away. The caterpillars  have pro legs the pro legs are not their real legs. They help them do things and walk . When the butterfly hatches it has a liquid which goes into  its wings to help  them fly and spread them.
by Jupman and Ethan 

 Once upon a time there was a caterpillar. He was looking for food -  a particular type of food.  In fact,  he was looking for swan plants. On his way, he came across some bright colourful flowers and he said to himself, “I’d rather munch on some leaves.” 

After that,  he met an ant, and he asked it, “Where are the swan plants?” 

The ant replied, ”Behind the flowers.”

 So the caterpillar walked behind the flowers and saw a forest of swan plants, and he munched and munched until he turned into a chrysalis.
 by Kyran and Jadev

Once  upon a time there was a caterpillar and he could not wait to be a butterfly. After two weeks had passed, he was turning in to a chrysalis. Then he thought about those times when he was a caterpillar. But then there was a dark chrysalis two trees away from him,  and   he knew it was time to transform into a butterfly.
by Cameron W and Tyree

Caterpillars are sometimes bent and there are heaps of chrysalises in the garden. They hide under sheltered leaves. They turn upside down to make their chrysalises. They wiggle and bounce a lot when they are making it. There is a line of gold around the top just below the cremaster. When they are to hatch you can see inside,  and the butterfly is almost ready to hatch. When they are a butterfly they are orange and black.  The female has thicker webbing compared to the males. If they are a female they lay eggs to start it all over again.
By Lauren and Katy, year 4 Tui1.

Once upon a time there was a caterpillar. It was about to turn in to a chrysalis. Then it saw all the olives on the tree nearby and thought that they were chrysalises. It might have thought that that’s where all the cool caterpillars were. So he made his chrysalis on the olive tree. Then, when he hatched, he saw that the olives didn’t hatch so he flew away.
Danny found this image on this website  where another class are learning about butterflies and caterpillars.

by Danny and Mia

The egg in the garden hatches into a caterpillar which means it has to eat heaps so it will grow. After that he/she has to find a branch so it can turn into a chrysalis. Next it will change into a butterfly. 

When the butterflies  come out, they have to open their wings before they can fly which means they have to pump liquid through their wings.

The butterflies eat nectar from the flowers, but birds do not try to catch them because they taste nasty.

When the weather gets colder, they fly away together. When they get tired they rest on a pine tree. Then the female flies off and finds a male to mate with.

Finally, she flies off and lays her eggs on a milk weed plant. 

Then the butterfly will only live for a few more weeks. However, there are still more eggs that will hatch and go through the same cycle.

By Renae and Jewel

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Update on Aphids

We have noticed many small dotted insects on our busy Lizzy plants (impatiens). They are bright yellow or green and are just slightly larger than hundreds and thousands.They stick together in  big groups underneath the flowers on the stalks. We also discovered that they spend lots of time with ants. The ants stick to the aphids  like aphid-vampires and we noticed that they were taking liquid off the ants - just as we had researched. 

The ants are running up and down the stalks. We think they are looking for more aphids. When  you touch the aphids the ants scurry up and down the stalks, too.  We think they could be  trying to protect the ants.

We think the aphids might help the ants - or do the ants help the aphids? This needs further research. 

From  we discovered our aphids are called aphis nerii or yellow aphid or milkweed (swan plant) aphid or oleander aphid.  They puncture the stalk of the plant to get food but can leave disease inside the plant. Another question: If the aphids left disease, would it affect other aphids and give them a disease too?

We read that aphids don't like poppies, marigolds, garlic, chives and parsley. We had poppies in our garden until recently. We discovered aphids shortly after the poppies died back. Banana peel may help repel aphids too, we read.  We might start leaving some banana peels in the garden after lunch and see what happens. We will have to tell the principle about this or else we might get into trouble for leaving our food scraps in the gardens and not putting them in  the bin. We wonder if the banana peel could also help fertilise the garden. 

We know that lady birds are helpful, and for our next blog we will have done some research on this. We have seen a few lady birds on our busy Lizzy. They are black and sometimes they have yellow dots. 

We found this lady bird but have not identified what kind it is yet.

A small ant on Kyran's hand
Other questions to research: 

- Are our aphids native to New Zealand? 
- How big can they grow?
- How do you get a male aphid if all adults are female? Do they change from male to female when they are young? Do they mate when they are young and then change into females when they are older? This has us bewildered. 
- Why do they like to sap of the busy Lizzy and not other plants?
- Why do the aphids prefer the busy Lizzy to our swan plant stalks which are still left, leafless, after the caterpillars ate everything?  
- Should we kill the aphids? How would this affect the lady birds? 
Do you notice how the aphids stick together?
Here is some research we did on aphids in general - not just our type of aphid.

Aphids may be green, black, brown, red, pink, or some other colour. They are pear-shaped and usually range in  size from 1/16 to 1/8 inch long* (Need to convert this to metric). Dense colonies of aphids may be found along  the stems or on the underside of a leaf. They are drawn to succulent new growth of plants. Several generations may occur and populations can build up quickly. Aphids stick together in big colonies.
Where there's sugar, there's bound to be ants. 

Some ants are so hungry for the honeydew, they'll actually "milk" the aphids to make them  produce it. Ants feed on the sugary honeydew left behind by aphids. In exchange, the ants protect the aphids from predators and parasites. In fact, honey ants will go to unusual lengths to ensure the health of the aphids in their care.

Can you see the group of aphids  and at least one ant?

Aphids on our busy Lizzy plants

By Lauren and Cameron W.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Visitors to our Garden

Today, instead of buddy reading, we did buddy writing  with Tui 1 (Year 4)  students after inviting them to look in our  garden.  Our class taught Tui 1 about caterpillars and butterflies. Here are some of the stories our class wrote with our buddies.

Our Story
We saw a chrysalis, and we saw one that had fallen down. We learned how to thread a fallen chrysalis and peg it to a container. They put a tissue so that if the chrysalis fell down it would land softly. 

We learned ways that a caterpillar could get a disease. We learned about how a chrysalis gets stuck to a branch or a leaf. We were allowed to bring two chrysalises and a caterpillar  back to Tui 1 with us. 


We learned that when a caterpillar is born it has to eat lots. We saw two baby caterpillars. We also saw a caterpillar trying to eat a stalk. 

We learned the cycle of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. We learned to tell a male butterfly from a female butterfly. We also learned that pray mantises and paper wasps eat caterpillars.
Written by Jess, Maddi, and Hannah.

Some of the butterflies' and caterpillars' predators are praying mantises. First the praying mantis hunts its prey, then it makes sure it doesn’t escape.  Then it attacks it and then it eats it. Another predator of the caterpillars and butterflies  are the paper Wasps.  The wasps hunts the caterpillars down then it stings it to kill it and then it eats it.

Caterpillars are black, white and yellow and they can die easily. They turn into a chrysalis and then they turn into a butterfly.Then they lay eggs and then fly to a better place.Then they lay more. The monarch butterfly lays about 300 - 400 eggs in maximum*.The caterpillars eat lots and lots of leaves and then when they get older they turn into a chrysalis. Lots of people get mixed up with a male butterfly and a female butterfly. It is easy to tell because the male butterfly has dark spots on its back but the female butterfly doesn’t have these dark spots.The male butterfly does not lay eggs.
* to be researched further.

Firstly the monarch butterfly starts out as a 1.2 mm size egg that another butterfly lays. After three or four days the egg hatches into a tiny little caterpillar. Once the caterpillar has been eating swan plant leaves for a week or so it is ready to turn into a chrysalis. First the caterpillar turns like an upside down spiral, then a green shade covers it up then it turns into a chrysalis, then it turns into a beautiful butterfly.
By Trent and Cameron 

 Things we have discovered this week: 

This is the egg case (ootheca) of a South African praying mantis.

These are not the ootheca of South African (or any) praying mantises. They are, in fact, used  bubble gum left on a post in our garden.  Yuck! But, from a distance, it had us fooled for a while. We now know the difference.

Some caterpillars will die of disease.

Other recent visitors to our garden:

The bees are enjoying our garden

Aphids and ants on our busy Lizzy plants. Lady birds won't be too far away.

Another caterpillar to identify.

Can you see a green caterpillar on the swan plant? It's a cabbage butterfly caterpillar, after Mrs Hansen's class's newly planted cabbage plants, no doubt. We have seen a few white butterflies around the place.

We need to identify what kind of caterpillar this is. A student from another class found it and brought it to show us. 

Can you find the fly on the leaf?

More Caterpillar News

Today we discovered our caterpillars may have a disease. We have noticed our younger caterpillars twitching and then 'freezing' (just when we want to video them). Then they go back to eating and repeat the twitching. These are young caterpillars which we transferred from plants they had completely eaten to newly planted swan plants.

We have found two dead caterpillars on the ground. We think our caterpillars may have a disease. We found a caterpillar with a green oozing substance  on its back. It may have come from the plant or it could have poked itself on something. We are going to research this. We need to do this quickly or else a disease could spread and kill even more caterpillars.

We have also found a praying mantis egg sack. It had a woven pattern at the front and it was very fuzzy as well. We found bubble gum that also looked very much like a praying mantis egg deposit. We can now see the difference between the bubble gum  and a real egg deposit (called an ootheca).

We have been rescuing many chrysalises in our garden in the last few days. Mrs Vincent ties  a small line of cotton around the cremaster and pulls gently, then repeats until tight. We pegged the thread to a container with a few tissues in the bottom in case the chrysalises  fall. We suspect the fallen chrysalises were not the doing of the wind but of fingers of younger Gardens School members, or visitors to our garden after school hours.

Note: We would like to ensure this  doesn't happen again. If you see anyone in the Huia1 garden can you please tell Mrs Vincent or a member of Huia1.

Here is a slideshow of  all the things we found in our garden today.

We found a chrysalis suspended by a very thin silk thread so thought that we had better rescue it. When we had one like this last week, the thread could not support the weight of the chrysalis and it fell, disastrous.

you can really see the silk button at the top of the cremaster on this chrysalis. We are watching this chrysalis with interest as it has a dent in it.

By Lauren, Kyran and Jackie.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Another Day, Another Disaster, Another Rescue

It seems our celebrity caterpillars may have become victims of their own publicity.

Apart from the natural dangers and predators our caterpillars encounter, they now have to contend with frequent and fascinated observers - not all of whom are able to keep their curiosity and fingers to themselves.

This morning (Monday), when we went to check on one of the chrysalises under a leaf overhanging the garden border - it wasn't there, and all that we could see was the remains of its last moult as it turned into its chrysalis. We knew it hadn't hatched as it had not been a chrysalis for long enough - and there was no empty case hanging.

This is the way the chrysalis looked last week. It's nowhere near ready to hatch.

This is the way the chrysalis looked on Monday morning. Note, there is no chrysalis case.
This appears to be the remains of our chrysalis, on the asphalt nearby. There is just the smallest remains of a green chrysalis case in the bottom centre of the photo. 

Can you find a chrysalis on the ground? 
This has been knocked off its branch. It is a perfectly healthy chrysalis and we found it on the ground in our garden.

We went to The Monarch Trust website FAQs tab  and followed the instructions for saving a fallen chrysalis. 

First, we carefully lifted it up with a piece of paper and brought it inside. 

Then we carefully tied a piece of thread around its cremaster
Photo below from Meandering Thoughts  blog.

And then we very carefully pegged it to a margarine container and placed it safely on the sink bench.

We have put a bit of tissue underneath it in case the chrysaslis falls.  

First position looked a little unsafe and we thought the chrysalis might get stressed if it got bumped.The container was resting against a surface but could easily fall over. 

Final solution: we shortened the thread so that the chrysalis was supported by the side of the container, and used a small peg to hold the thread in place. There is enough space for the butterfly to climb out and have something to perch on. 

Meanwhile, here's a progress report on some of our other chrysalises. Can you find three chrysalises in this photo?

This chrysalis is close to hatching.
 This chysalis still has some drips of water on it from overnight dew.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Good News and Bad News for our Caterpillars.

Lauren visited our  caterpillars at school over the weekend, and look what she found! This is a paper wasp; it appears to be eating the caterpillar but we will need to  do a bit more research to establish what is happening.

On the up side, here are some of Lauren's photos of her successfully relocated caterpillars at her place.

And her plant has got plenty of seed pods, so there can be more swan plants next year.

What is happening in this photo?  

Thanks for your photos, Lauren.