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How To - Caterpillar to Butterfly Metamorphosis, Time Lapse

Posted by Marie Ferguson on

Check out the end result video, our special offer is at the bottom of this page.



Marie here, with my first how-to article. I am a mom with kids headed back to school in a week. Walking around in our yard we found a caterpillar and wanted to capture its growth into a butterfly. This started as a simple concept for the kids to watch but turned into a project for everyone. The transformation was amazing to witness in person, but seeing it again in video is a great learning experience for the kids.

The classroom potential really got me with this one. Kids are only at school for a limited time. Chances are the butterfly appears while the kids are away, at lunch or recess. How disappointing would it be to miss the actual event. With time lapse, the event can be captured and replayed on the SmartBoard or posted to Facebook for parents to enjoy too.

The educational potential goes far beyond caterpillars and butterflies. 3D printing, ants creating tunnels, tadpoles turning into frogs, plants growing, petri dish bacteria growth, capturing mold growth, life cycle of a fruit fly, cloud formations, building projects and many more.

This tutorial is wordy but the project is simple. If you have questions at any point, please contact us. All you really need is a time lapse camera, a caterpillar and an environment for nature to work its magic. The Brinno TLC 200 Pro camera is perfect for projects like this.

Once you have your caterpillar source, find a suitable environment, preferably something with flat glass sides. A small aquarium would be perfect, I used a square glass vase. You will need a cover (window screen, cloth), something breathable. Keep in mind, caterpillars like to climb to the highest point before they spin a cocoon or molt into a chrysalis. Whatever you choose for a cover may end up being in your shot.

Give your caterpillars a natural surrounding with their food source (milkweed). Water soaked paper towel should keep plants green and you may need to swap them if they start to look undesirable. Put a stick or small branch in the container, something rigid extending towards the top for the caterpillar to latch onto when it's time.

Now, set-up your camera. The reason a Brinno camera is the perfect choice, is the long battery life. Depending on the capture interval, the batteries will last from days to months. Card storage capacity is the greatest concern as there is so much time waiting for something to happen. I recommend at least a 16 GB card which will allow you to capture a frame every two seconds for 24 hours before filling up. This allows you to start recording at the end of a day and record overnight. If something happens by morning, congratulations, chances are you captured the action. If nothing happened, delete the files on the card and try again.

Card capacity is one of the biggest considerations. The good parts of your video happen relatively quickly so you need a fast capture interval. Here is a look at how long you can run different sized cards.

Card Size Interval Duration
16 GB 1 Sec 13 hrs.
16 GB 2 Sec 26 hrs.
32 GB 1 Sec 26 hrs.
32 GB 2 Sec 52 hrs.

A 32GB card, capturing every two seconds would allow your camera to record all weekend. A capture every second is ideal, every two seconds will work if you can't attend to the card.

Your camera should be placed on a stable surface or tripod close to the glass. The lens will need to be manually focused, we are working on a focusing article, for now give us a call and we will be happy to walk you through the process.

Brinno Butterfly Timelapse Setup

Lights are a consideration. Your video will look better with a consistent light source (clamp lights, flexible desk lamp, etc.) and the action may take place overnight. Some lights produce banding in the video which can be corrected, however, testing and changing the light would be a much better option.

Now the wait begins. I am not sure how different caterpillars do their thing but the Monarch caterpillar will attach to high point and form a “J”, this is when you want to start recording. Once the J is formed, this provides the focus point and is where the action is going to take place.

Brinno Time Lapse Caterpillar
This process doesn't last long and quickly you will have a nice dangling chrysalis.

Caterpillar Chrysalis Stages
Now, another wait begins, at this point it will be 10-15 days before anything happens. After approximately 10 days check the chrysalis for color change. 

Once the chrysalis starts to darken start the recording again. This process takes some time. Be prepared to check the camera and chrysalis every day. Once you see the wing color through the clear chrysalis the butterfly will emerge quickly. Record as long as you want. As it emerges the butterfly will slowly beat and fill out its wings.

Now is time for the release. If at all possible do this with kids, their curious little minds will be in awe to witness the resulting caterpillar transition into a beautiful butterfly. With phone camera in hand, capture the moment and their expression as the butterly gently moves around climbing on their hand and lifting off their palm for the first time.

At this point you will have some editing work to do. You will probably cut out a lot of nothing happening, speed up portions and slow down others. Editing the video is great extra credit work if students are of the age to be capable of editing.

SPECIAL OFFER: Editing can be tricky. We are offering one free quick project edit per year to any teachers, schools or organizations who purchase a Brinno TLC200 Pro camera from us. We will offer additional quick edits at discounted educational rates depending on the project complexity. This applies to short, classroom educational projects, you can't document a new school build with this offer.

About Me: I love all things Brinno time lapse and I create content for TimeLapseCameras.com. I have captured a tornado, thousands of hours of construction and much more. I am a graphic designer and photographer, the TimeLapseCameras.com logo is my work, along with other elements of this site. Now, I am an official blog author and I may be found installing firmware and shipping cameras. My personal site is at www.dmcreativedesign.com.

We are here to help you from start to finish and want your project to be a success. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.


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