Friday, May 20, 2011

Butterflies (But, like REAL ones this time!)

If you receive even half the number of brainy toy catalogs I get each week, you have surely seen the Butterfly Garden. It's a mesh-and-zipper contraption in which you can house a few butterflies after sending away to receive caterpillar larvae by mail. It looked pretty cool to me, and seemed like something I couldn't quite replicate on my own (the caterpillar larvae, that is; surely I could make a mesh-and-zipper contraption if I felt like it and could squeeze a few hours of sewing in between my morning shower and breakfast). So, a few weeks ago I went ahead and ordered it and then the caterpillar larvae. And for the past month I have felt like as close to a real science teacher as I ever hope to be.



The little baby caterpillars came in a plastic cup with half an inch of some food-like substance at the bottom. I decided not to force the learniness at my kids this time, but just left the cup in a conspicuous place and let them approach it and explore it as they desired.



A week or so later, the cute little baby caterpillars had turned into big, furry, creepy crawly creatures with messes of silk webs and errant body parts littering their domicile. I know I seem all tough and un-squeamish but seriously, these things got kind of gross. Luckily, we didn't have to do anything but watch and wait.


Several days later, they started to form into crysalids, which was the term the paperwork used, even though every Eric Carle-lovin' American (or Ron Howard fan, for that matter) alive in the past 40 years calls them cocoons. I thought I was in the clear once the crysalids formed, in terms of grossness. All I had to do was carefully remove the paper top of the cup and pin it inside the butterfly garden. I was mistaken on two counts. First, one of the cocoons didn't hang from the ceiling, and so I had to scoop it up with a spoon and gently transfer it to the floor of the butterfly garden (blech!). And secondly, cocoons, apparently, are not necessarily still. Imagine my bleeping shock when I began to pry off the paper lid and discovered one crysalid begin spinning around like a propeller. Ewwwwww! It turns out that's a defense mechanism. And I'll tell you what: it works. I didn't want anything to do with that freaky thing from that point forward!


For about a week or so after that, everything was quiet and still amongst the chrysalids in the butterfly garden. I checked on them a few times a day, fearing they were never going to complete their metamorphoses and I would have to break my children's hearts with the news that these scab-like dangling caterpillar remnants was all they were getting. But then one day Fifi announced, "There's a butterfly!" And by golly, the miracle of life made me giddy. I dropped what I was doing (which, luckily, was not carrying Vance) and rushed over to see our newest friend.


I then carefully followed the directions and put some sugar water on a flower inside the cage for the butterfly to feed upon. The kids were entranced by the winged creature and I finally felt like the yuckiness I endured was totally worth it. Now we just sit and wait and hope there will be four more beautiful creatures in our living room in a few days. And then I will grit my teeth and suppress my gags as I go about the business of discarding the empty cocoons.

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