A metamorphosis, in progress

When we moved to WNY way back in 1981, my grandmother visited and noticed that our new backyard had a lot of milkweed in it. She told me that milkweed is a preferred plant for Monarch butterfly caterpillars, and we should go out and see if we could find any. And we did! Quite a few, even. She helped me modify a jar (by punching holes in the lid), and after picking a few milkweed leaves and stalks, we had ourselves a habitat for a caterpillar. In this way she showed me how to nurture a caterpillar all the way to the formation of its chrysalis, and then to monitor the chrysalis for the shifts in color at the end that indicate that a butterfly will soon be emerging. At that point we would open the jar and put it outside so the butterfly could escape when the time came. I never did get to actually witness the moment of emergence, but it was still an amazing bit of participation in the natural world. It was also, I imagine, the kind of participatory lesson that is passed on from generation to generation, not unlike catching fireflies in a jar for a bit or learning to fish. (I never learned to fish, by the way. Not every lesson gets learned by everyone. And no, that’s not a complaint. Fishing looks like a lovely pastime, but it’s not one where I feel like I’ve missed out.)

Why do I bring any of this up? Well, a few years back a milkweed plant managed to seed itself in the mulch bed right outside our front door. We’ve let the milkweed grow each year, and this year it finally happened. This past Saturday we met this individual:

And then our friend disappeared. We wondered where the beastie got to…and then, yesterday when I got home from work, I found the beastie’s new digs. Right on the siding. I wonder why (s)he built there and not in the safety of the milkweed…but I suppose it’s fine.

The wheel turns.


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2 Responses to A metamorphosis, in progress

  1. Lee McAulay says:

    Nice! This year I turned a compost bin and found a mysterious pupa, which turned into an Elephant Hawk Moth – the world still works, in little ways, under the turn of the stars.

  2. fillyjonk says:

    We did that when I was a kid! My mom would let my brother and me go to the vacant lot next to our house and look for caterpillars, and if we found one, we could bring it home and keep it in an empty aquarium or a jar and feed it milkweed leaves and give it a stick to hang its chrysalis from. I have a photograph of my brother and me sitting next to the jar waiting for the butterfly’s wings to dry enough for it to fly away….

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