Nature Activity for Kids: Butterfly Identification

Chasing Butterflies

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As you may know by now, we’re crazy about nature here at the Yankee Homestead.

[By the way, if you’re a parent or teacher, or have any interaction or influence with children, I highly recommend this book: Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder

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.  It’s fantastic–both inspirational and practical.  Read my review of the book here: Last Child in the Woods.]

The other day, instead of heading inside for rest time after lunch on the patio, we decided to chase butterflies.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail–notice how nicely he posed for the camera.
I was able to get several clear shots.

Specifically, we were trying to take a picture of a particularly beautiful butterfly we’d been admiring during lunch. He was such a tricky subject–capturing his image took us much longer than I’d anticipated.

Spicebush Swallowtail fly by #2
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We literally chased him all over our yard, hoping to snap a picture that would help in the identification process, since we’d been unable to locate him in our pocket butterfly guide.

Chasing Butterflies
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Little Brother, trying to capture a specimen with his beloved butterfly net.

It didn’t help that I was using my iphone, with it’s delayed response camera, but I didn’t want to risk losing sight of him while running to fetch my DSLR.

Spicebush Swallowtail fly by
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There he goes again…

Between the blurry pictures I managed to take, and our prolonged observations of his markings, we were able to find him in a more comprehensive butterfly guide once we returned to the house.

We were amused to read that the Spicebush Swallowtail is “an active and steady flier, seldom alighting.” It was definitely true for our Spicebush Swallowtail–he was in constant motion!

Spicebush Swallowtail
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This was one of the best shots I managed to get of his upper wings.

So, naps were more than a little late that afternoon, but it all worked out.  We made a positive identification of our elusive butterfly, the Spicebush Swallowtail.

Spicebush Swallowtail Drawing
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Older Brother’s drawing of our Spicebush Swallowtail, on his Nature Calendar.

Hooray for butterflies!  

(And hooray for a break in our hot summer temps, which allowed us to venture outside in the middle of the day.)

More about butterflies: Year Round Nature Activity for Kids: Raising Butterflies.


Chasing Butterflies
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Kathleen Henderson

Let's get real! I’m Kathleen Henderson, your Natural Living Mentor. I’m on a mission to help families see the joy in real food, while finding natural remedies and creating a nontoxic home. Learn more about my story >>


  1. Sandy Creighton on 08/26/2013 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks for the information on the Nature books. I am always looking for good books for Emma and the boys. Sandy

    • Kathleen on 08/26/2013 at 6:37 pm

      You’re welcome, Sandy. Enjoy! 🙂

  2. Teresa on 08/27/2013 at 5:16 pm

    We just captured a butterfly the other day…we drew it and released it! Such fun!!

    • Kathleen on 08/27/2013 at 7:05 pm

      Teresa–were you able to identify it? I’d love to see the drawings…

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