My oldest is completely bonkers, plumb over the moon, about moths and butterflies.
He keeps copious notes about their habits and spouts names (Zebra Heliconian! Eastern Tiger Swallowtail! Great Purple Hairstreak!), like nobody's business.
Up to now, he has always thought he'd grow up to be a farmer, but now he's thinking that his farm should include a native wildflower area and butterfly preserve.
He's also been looking into how entomologists make their living too. After some careful thought, he tells us that he's particularly interested in one day helping to research ways to restore native vegetation to urban areas, and helping farmers to use natural farming methods that don't harm beneficial insects.
Can I just tell you how much I love this kid?
He's a mean karate machine with a heart full of butterflies, a love for the land, and he makes a smokin' omelet too.
Anyhow, I'm hear to tell you about the butterflies, not the kid who loves 'em right?
My man has been saving his money for thrifted fish tanks and native plants, all in the name of the butterflies. He likes to bring the caterpillars in to raise them to maturity, not just because it's fun to watch, but also because then they can develop without fear of predatory birds, wasps and the like.
In this tank he has a pupating White-lined Sphinx Moth (in the jar in the top left corner of the tank), a mystery moth (also in the jar) and 5 Gulf Fritillaries (gifted to him by a very sweet white-haired older gentleman that is also a little butterfly crazy).
For the love of the fritillaries, my young man called half a dozen nurseries until we found one that carried Passion Vine.
Who knew that following your kids passion led to having passionflowers in your garden!
Over the last few days we had the awesome privilege of seeing these fellas grow fat, and go into their chrysalides. This weekend the very first emerged. Take a look:
As potentially pokey as they look, they are harmless. Their little spikes don't hurt at all.
After they are sufficiently fattened, they attach their rumps to the top of the cage with silken threads and hang in a "J" formation. They begin to swell a bit, and two sections behind their heads turn white and bulge with fluid. See the white parts, just behind the head, in the hook of the "J" ?
In a matter of hours, they look like a gnarled, wilted leaf. Brilliant camouflage, right?
In a week and half to two weeks, those frightening looking caterpillars emerge lovely and delicate.
We like their undersides best. All those large white spots are not white at all. They are metallic silver! They catch the light and flash as the butterfly flies. Isn't that neat?
This fella's siblings are all still safely tucked away in their chrysalides... for now.
My little man has been so happy to witness the process, but was a bit bummed that he had no caterpillars left.
That is until the parsley that he planted just to attract Black Swallowtails paid off... six wee caterpillars are now chomping away in the tank once more!
Nature— the sublime, the harsh, and the beautiful— offers something that the street or gated community or computer game cannot. Nature presents the young with something so much greater than they are; it offers an environment where they can easily contemplate infinity and eternity. —Richard Louv