Monday, October 27, 2014

A Butterfly Tale

Remember this? This is a lovely fat monarch caterpillar hanging out on a milkweed plant I bought at a farmer's market.
And then the very next day it turned into a chrysalis, right before our very eyes. I tended to it (obsessively, some might say--ahem) for almost two weeks, including putting up a tinfoil barrier so the other caterpillars wouldn't migrate over and eat the leaves where it was balanced. I watched as the chrysalis turned dark (no photos, alas) and then started to become transparent--so cool, you could see the colors on its folded wings inside. On Thursday morning, I went out for about 20 minutes and came back to find this: an empty chrysalis...
...and this magnificent, glorious, gorgeous butterfly. O.M.G.!!!! I actually shed a few tears at the wonder of it all. 
Tallulah Mae, on the other hand, was not impressed. 
After a few hours inside as its wet wings hardened--I took the whole plant outside so that the warm air and sunshine would encourage the newborn to fly away. 
I checked on it every 20 minutes or so, worrying and waiting. Finally, as it hung onto the plant, it started to open and close its wings. After another few hours, it finally took off and the ground, where it fell over on its side. Oh no! I righted it and saw that the right top wing is a bit malformed, as you can see here. {Gulp.}
It stayed there, opening and closing its wings, for a few more hours.
Tallulah Mae was still not impressed.
Finally, as the day wore on, the spot where it sat was in the shade, which I thought was not a good thing. I put my finger out and it crawled onto it (amazing), and I put it on a flowering plant and left it (had to go to an evening event). When we came home, it was still on the flower with its wings tightly closed, but definitely still alive.

The next day, we went out to check on it, and it started to open and close its wings again but was making no effort to fly off. I'd looked online to see what could be wrong (MANY things, as it turns out, from injury [it did fall as it was pupating] to fungus to who knows what), and I read where someone had fed (!) a butterfly that was having trouble flying. 

I mixed up some sugar water into a tiny bowl (no, really!) and after the butterfly walked onto my finger again, I put the bowl up to it. It reached out one of its tiny legs, "tasted" the liquid with its foot and then promptly unrolled its proboscis and began to drink! O.M.G. (There are no photos, unfortunately, because my hands were full.) After it finished (and pooped on me), I held it up above my head. More opening and closing of the wings and then: flight, yay. A short flight directly into a spider web. Gah! I rescued it, removed the web bits, and was trying to think what else I could do to help it

And it flew up onto my head. Um. I went into the house to get my camera--butterfly still on my head, like a tiny living fascinator, as you can see below--and went back outside. 
So. Butterfly. On my head. What now? I moved into the shade to ponder the problem. And it flew away. More tears of joy...and a real sense of wonderment and gratitude, somehow. Fly, little butterfly, fly!

Some small part of me likes to think that it was saying thank you and goodbye...

When you see a butterfly, please appreciate it: from what I've read, the odds of an egg making it all the way to adult are incredibly small. I love them even more now!

1 comment:

vivi said...

Oh, my! Beautiful story. And, now, my foziewisp, will enjoy butterflies more. xoxo