by Laurie Sheldon
|Asclepias tuberosa and Calotropis procera|
|No ribbon needed!|
|Newly-formed monarch chrysalises|
Then another cold-snap came. This time, all of the caterpillars went A.W.O.L., save for the two largest. I told my sister-in-law that if she saw either one hanging in a "J" it meant that they would be pupating soon. Within two days, they had two bright green, gold-rimmed chrysalises. Each of the boys claimed and named one for his own... Kai called his "Coo Coo Brain" and Bodhi's was "Chrysallisie". Curious about what happened to the other caterpillars, I went over to their home to investigate. Sure enough, nary a creepy-crawly could be found on either plant, although there were a couple of eggs. As disappointing as that was, it was overshadowed by the presence of the two dangling beauties, which, incidentally, had been formed on leaves and stems that seemed ready to fall off. The plants were inside their Florida room at this point, where the two foot drop to the concrete floor would have put an end to the metamorphosis taking place inside of "Coo Coo Brain" and "Chrysallisse". I brought over a plastic container with airholes that was deep enough to allow the butterfly in each chrysalis to emerge, hang onto its former home, and smooth its wings, and told the adults to tape the silky/webby pad of each chrysalis to the inside top of the container (actually, I drew a diagram too, but it was no artistic masterpiece). I warned them not to freak out when the chrysalis started looking dark - that it was actually not getting darker, but, conversely, it was becoming more transparent, and the darkness they'd be seeing would actually be the butterfly within.
Each step in the process was more exciting than the next. The boys and their parents were both actively engaged and fascinated. One at a time, a few days apart, the butterflies emerged. My brother and sister-in-law applauded me for giving my nephews, "the best gift ever," but I played it down and said it was a, "gift from Mother Nature," and that I was just the delivery boy. I'd raised monarchs many years earlier, and knew how incredible the experience was (and is); I was just happy that the kids remained interested throughout.
A few days later, one of the butterflies died. I'm not quite sure why, but I suppose at this point it's moot. Fortunately, my brother and sister-in-law took the time to explain to their children that death is inherent to life, and that, by raising caterpillars and butterflies at home, they significantly increased the chances that the larvae and insects would reach adulthood.
The boys buried the butterfly together, and the eldest of the two wrote a note (shown below) and stuck it by the graveside with a toothpick. It was the saddest, sweetest thing I'd ever seen. "Well, they still have the plants," I thought to myself, knowing that eventually they'd have more butterflies.
|Translation: Poor butterfly. Kai loves you.|