Monday, April 19

Girl of the Limberlost & Lepidopterology

Nature study often tapers off in high school, but this is an excellent time for students to dive deeper into specialized fields.  Lepidopterology is a branch of entomology that studies moths and butterflies.  In A Girl of the Limberlost, Elnora is fascinated with this field of study!

What's the difference between butterflies and moths?

One guiding principle is that butterflies have thin antennae and small balls or clubs at the end of their antennae. Moth antennae are usually feathery with no ball on the end.

Unlike butterflies, which are considered one of nature's beauties, moths tend to be ignored by the cultural arts.  Not only can they eat through fabric, but some of them sting and cause skin irritation.


Butterflies have the typical four-stage insect life cycle. Winged adults lay eggs on the food plant on which their larvae, known as caterpillars, will feed. The caterpillars grow, sometimes very rapidly, and when fully developed, pupate in a chrysalis.  Most children have seen this process in action in the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

When metamorphosis is complete, the pupal skin splits, the adult insect climbs out, and after its wings have expanded and dried, it flies off. Some butterflies, especially in the tropics, have several generations in a year, while others have a single generation, and a few in cold locations may take several years to pass through their entire life cycle.

Butterflies often make use of camouflage and mimicry to evade their predators. Some, like the monarch and the painted lady, migrate over long distances. Adult butterflies have large, often brightly colored wings, and conspicuous, fluttering flight. Surprisingly, some butterfly fossils have been found that date to the Paleocene Era, about 56 million years ago!


Most of the order Lepidoptera actually consists of moths. There are thought to be approximately 160,000 species of moth.  Most are nocturnal, but there are also crepuscular and diurnal species.  They go through the same stages of development as butterflies, and they are important pollinators to our agricultural system.  Their hairy caterpillar bodies pick up pollen from just about anything and transfer it.

Our spine read for this unit is A Girl of the Limberlost

Access the complete unit in Beautiful Book Studies!

Each unit addresses a new topic, including science, history, and geography.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the topic to life.

Table of Contents

  • The King’s Fifth
  • Red Falcons of Tremoine
  • Golden Hawks of Genghis Khan
  • Red Hugh of Ireland
  • Calico Captive
  • The Story of Eli Whitney
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins
  • The Lost Kingdom
  • The Secret Garden
  • Heidi
  • Girl of the Limberlost
  • The Winged Watchman
  • When the Dikes Broke
  • Using the Good & the Beautiful in High School

The books selected for these unit studies can be found in the upper grades areas of The Good and the Beautiful Book List.  However, Homeschool On the Range and Sparks Academy are not employed by or affiliated with, nor do they receive any compensation from, The Good and the Beautiful.  It has simply been their curriculum of choice for many years.  These unit studies are not endorsed by The Good and the Beautiful or Jenny Phillips.

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