Kirby's Journal: Backyard Butterfly Magic

Written and Photographed by Charlotte Caldwell

To a child, nearby nature can be a universe. Through Kirby’s Journal, Charlotte Caldwell provides children with a portal into their own backyard galaxy.
— Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods


Kirby and friends experience a summer-full of backyard activities, culminating in COMPLETE METAMORPHOSIS.  They learn firsthand how everything is connected to everything else, from planting the garden - HABITAT; to inquiring about insect body parts- MORPHOLOGY; games about the similarities and differences of living things in the backyard - CLASSIFICATION; finding animals in the backyard desiring to eat caterpillars and butterflies - FOOD WEB; and the ingenious defenses to avoid getting eaten - SURVIVAL STRATEGIES.  This beautiful butterfly magic can be discovered in any city or countryside throughout the world.

Excerpts from Kirby's Journal


A butterfly’s head has

  • two large compound eyes- they can see in almost every direction

  • a set of long antennae- for feeling stuff

  • and a PROBOSCIS for sipping nectar.  The proboscis looks like a tiny straw when it is sipping, but it rolls up out of the way when it is not eating. 


Bees also have two sets of wings (forewings and hind wings).  But a bee’s wings don’t have any scales, so you can see through them. 


Insectivores-  This wasp stung a Lady caterpillar, chewed it into bite size chunks, and flew back to its nest with the pieces.


Gulf Fritillary caterpillars have prickly barbed spines to keep predators away from them.


First a female lays her eggs on the right kind of host plant. Here’s a Gulf Fritillary egg that has been laid on the tendril of a passion vine host plant. 


First it cracked the chrysalis open.  It kept pushing in opposite directions with its head and legs.