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National Trust Butterfly Observatory

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Manufacturer: National Trust / Insects

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      05.05.2010 19:47
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      I purchased the National Trust Butterfly Observatory just before christmas in SAinsbury. Alongside alot of the christmas aisle, this was reduced to half price at £7.50.

      My four year old daughter crazes me for pets but unfortunately Im not that way inclined and as shes not old enough to look after pets herself we only manage a goldfish. I Thought that this would be an ideal stocking filler and would almost pass as a pet?

      The box, pictured above, measured 30cm x 30cm and is emblazoned with the national trust 'oak leaf' logo. It picures two girls clearly amazing at the butterflies in the observatory.

      On opening the box on christmas morning, we found it to contain the netted observatory, a pipette, an instruction booklet and a coupon to send off and redeem for your caterpillars.

      We have had to wait for the spring as the caterpillars needed warmth with a minimum temperature of 10c to thrive.

      We filled in our coupon for the caterpillars and had to post it along with £3 for the postage. The caterpillar eggs arrived within a couple of days. They arrived in a cardboard box which contained a plastic container with 5 caterpillar eggs. The lid has small air holes and on the bottom of the container was what looked like a layer of wet sand but this is in fact the food for the caterpillars.

      We were instructed to keep this container upright and out of direct sunlight which we did. I must say that we were disappointed at first as for a week to 10 days nothing seemed to happen but after this the caterpillars did seem to grow daily at an alarming rate before our eyes!
      My daughter though wasn't really fussed as there was nohing to do except observe!
      Mummy was quite repulsed, 5 huge fat hairy caterpillars in the living room wasn't my idea of a cute pet either!
      Id say at their largest the caterpillars were as long and wide as my little finger. They would often catch the corner of my eye whilst circulating their pot!

      Soon enough we saw silk threading around the pot which to be honest the first time I noticed I thought that they were going mouldy! On reading the instruction booklet I was made aware that this was quite normal.

      After around six weeks, which was longer than the suggested three to five, three of the caterpillars became chrysalides and hung themselves onto the bottom of the lid. They are to be left to fully develop at this stage for seven days and it is important that they are not disturbed. At this point mummy had to call upon brother-in-law because I wasnt brave enough to open the lid.
      The chrysalides need to be gently laid in the observatory. Apparently it is common for them to be shaking at this point! It is a natural instinct that they have to scare off predators.
      Id say that this 'chrysalides' stage took another two weeks which is probably why my daughter totaly had no interest in these at all.

      The chrysalides then become really dark and within 24 hours the butterflies emerge. Id like to say that I wasnt interested but it was quite amazing. YOu can actually see the butterfly wing colours through the 'shell' at this point.

      Once the butterflies are fully formed you must put some natural habitat around them in the net. THings like leaves, twigs, flowers or fruit. You also need to feed them at this stage which is really interesting.
      AS the less likely to make mess, I fed them the suggested orange cut into quarters but you can also feed them apples, bananas or a sugar-water using the pipette provided.

      We managed to 'raise' three butterflies out of the five caterpillars we started with. We are currently enjoying watching them in the observatory but it is suggested that after a few weeks they are released back to their natural environment.
      The butterflies are 'Painted Lady' and are orange, red and dark browns.

      I have tried to explain to my daughter that it will be kind to let them go shortly and she has already decided to catch some ladybirds and put them into the observatory!

      I think that at age 4, my daughter is a little young to fully appreciate this but for an older child it really is educational and engaging.
      Actually the box does state suitable for children over 7 years.

      I do believe that I got a bargain but would be a little disappointed had I spent £15 then a further £3 on this. Afterall, £18 would almost buy me a rabbit wouldnt it?
      In saying that we are enjoying this christmas gift in May when many other christmas presents are already long forgotten at the bottom of the toy cupboard.

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