About the Activity
Butterflies are more than just a pretty bug. Just like bees, they're hard at work as they travel from flower to flower. Learn about the butterfly life cycle and how these winged beauties take part in pollination.
Topics: STEM, Biology
Estimated Time: 45 minutes
Brought to you by Corteva Agriscience, Colorado State University Extension and University of Illinois Extension
These simple materials will get you started.
- coffee filter
- food dye or water color markers
- spray bottle
- small clothes pin
- drop cloth or newspaper to place on the table under the project
Follow these steps to create your butterfly.
Before you start the activity, think about this amazing fact: The butterfly is actually this creature’s third physical form, since a butterfly has three stages in its lifecycle: pupa (chrysalis), larva (caterpillar), and butterfly.
- During the pupal phase, the developing butterfly is inside the chrysalis.
- Next, the butterfly pumps body fluid through its wing veins, which allows them to get bigger.
- Next, the butterfly will rest for a couple hours to allow everything to dry and harden. Now the butterfly is ready for flight. And so is your butterfly! So let’s get started.
- First, squeeze a few drops of each color onto the coffee filter. Keep the water drop spaced out from one another, since they will bleed outward.Did You Know? To help them fly, butterflies have transparent wings with tiny scales that reflect light, which create their beautiful color patterns. We’re using the coffee filter and food dye (or colored markers) for those wings.
- Spray the water using the spray bottle evenly over the filter and colors. Let dry.Fun Fact: Butterflies taste with their feet! But they suck up nectar through a straw-like mechanism called the proboscis, which is its mouth. Also: Bees aren't the only insects that pollinate flowers. Butterflies do, too. When a butterfly drinks nectar through its proboscis, some pollen gets stuck on its hairs and transfers pollen from one flower to another. Less pollen accumulates on their bodies than bees, but because they travel farther distances than bees, they can pollinate a larger area.
- The last step is to scrunch up the coffee filter down the middle and place the clothespin between the two wings of the butterfly. Voila – you’ve assembled your own butterfly!Did You Know? Butterflies have to assemble their own mouth parts, too. When they come out of the chrysalis, their proboscis is in two parts. They use palpi, which are pipe-cleaner-like structures near the butterfly’s head, to assemble the two parts into one.
Questions for your kids and teens.
- How are butterflies different from bees?
- Why is it important to have pollinators in nature?
- What would a world without butterflies be like?
Want to learn even more about butterflies?
Download the 4-H Butterfly Guide and get to know these fascinating creatures better.
The Butterfly Life-Cycle
Learn about how butterflies go from egg to adult.
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