The Story of the Caterpillars

A few weeks ago I managed to do something I’d wanted to do for a long time. I went online and ordered a butterfly growing kit. When it arrived I realised I needed to order our five caterpillars separately. So, with a faint disappointment, I did so.
I realise I shouldn’t have felt any disappointment because, now they are gone, I wish for the days of waiting to be back again. They arrived in a very sturdy box and when we took them out we were surprised to see just how tiny they were.
Aren’t they adorable?! I read all the information provided and during the first week they spent a lot of time ‘out of reach’ of tiny hands, in a place providing them with the best temperature and at night we covered the pot in the protective heat containing sleeve. I was extremely protective of them because there is a risk of damage to the tiny creatures if the pot is knocked over or turned upside down, and I preferred to deal with discussions about why I kept them safe as opposed to discussions about why none of them survived. But that’s just me…
We all looked at them every day, we showed them to people when they visited the house and we took pictures, lots of pictures. They ate through the food and left a constant web type substance in their wake. Apparently this is totally normal And a very good sign they are progressing well.
It was around day 8 that we started to see a change in their behaviour. They were restless and constantly climbing to the top of the tub. I watched them for a while, and they were so slow, it must have been all the food in their bellies! George and Molly were interested, to a point, but I think I probably observed them the most!
That was until the chrysalides began to form. This was like watching some sort of alien transformation. At one point I watched one of them (the first to take his position hanging upside down at the top of the tub) jab at another who was getting too close. It was so fascinating watching nature work!
The caterpillars completely transformed within 24 hours, from active little fuzzy things to still ‘J’ shaped beings. After leaving them to harden for a few days we transferred them to their temporary butterfly home. We removed any webbing surrounding them and attached them to the side of the enclosure with a safety pin. This was a really tricky part of the process but we did it in the end… We also placed a piece of kitchen towel on the bottom ready for their transformation day.
Suddenly George and Molly were over-excited and desperate to meet their butterfly friends. We watched them each day, changing beneath their encasing, and on the day they began to emerge we noticed they became much darker and pattern of their wing showing through the chrysalis.
We went out one day and when we got home I had a quick check and noticed a chrysalis that looked paler than the rest, then I spotted the new addition hanging on the side of the net, a pink/red liquid dripping down the net and onto the kitchen roll. I had read that this ‘meconium’ was normal, it is not blood…
Immediately we began collecting fruit and flowers, mixing sugar with water to make nectar and adding it to the flowers for the butterfly to feed from.
None of the other butterflies emerged that day, but I remembered that one caterpillar had started his transformation sooner than the rest, so we waited patiently…
The next day was a sunny Sunday, and guess what? We spent all day indoors! Waiting. George got bored and went out to plant seeds (his cucumbers and lettuce are coming along nicely now!) but Molly and I sat, waiting patiently to see something, anything, happen.
Whilst we dressed and brushed our teeth another little butterfly emerged. We were lucky to see it in its freshly emerged state, all tiny and crumpled. Slowly it stretched out its wings, slowly its little feeders curled in and out, in and out, and then we saw the meconium spurt out. It was amazing!
Later that day, after lunch, we were watching the unmoving chrysalides and then it happened. One of them began to emerge. It was so fast, so silent, and so so beautiful.
The last one was the following day. We were so pleased to have seen all five of them grow and change into butterflies!
We didn’t keep them for too long, just over a day, before we let them go. It was an awesome moment watching the children hold them and even more amazing to see them fly away.
Here are the ‘leftovers’!!!! Aren’t they amazing? George and Molly have stuck them into their scrap books as a reminder of such a beautiful time.
I would highly recommend this experience, it has been simply wonderful! We will definitely do it again next year…
Have you ever had caterpillars grow in your home?


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