Saturday, May 05, 2012

Totally Unexpected and Quite Magical!


Back in June, we started finding caterpillars on our garden fennel. Since the something had eaten them all the previous summer, Robb and I decided to try to raise the caterpillars in a bird-proof container. The caterpillars ate and grew and eventually morphed into chrysalises. In July, several of these chrysalises hatched out beautiful healthy butterflies that we released in our back yard.

We had read that it could take as long as three months for butterflies to emerge. We waited. And waited. And nothing happened.

We moved our butterfly tank outside. And when the winter rains came, we removed the chrysalises from the tank, so that they wouldn't get water-logged. And then we sort of forgot about them.   Junk piled up around them.  Occasionally, I'd peer at the strange dead-looking forms  . . .  and wonder

And then, last Friday, Robb was out in the garden taking a break from some work. He noticed the local scrub jay, scrutinizing the table where the chrysalises had been sitting for almost a year.

What was so interesting to the bird?

As it turned out, there were two newly hatched butterflies, pumping up their wrinkly wings.

It's hard to imagine what triggered the emergence of these creatures, after such a long period of dormancy.  Hard to imagine how they had stayed alive for so long.  I had, on more than one occasion, considered tossing the chrysalises in the compost pile, but laziness and insane optimism always got the better of me.

As if two butterflies weren't magical enough, a third on emerged that same afternoon.  What prompted this synchronized event?  Why did some portion of the group butterflies emerge last July, and some delay for almost a year?

In the past week, three more butterflies have emerged.  It has been very moving to see these fragile creatures enter the world, pump up their disheveled wings, and fly off into the world.  I'm glad we were able to be participants in this magical transformation.


zippiknits said...

Beautiful! And, the delay might be a survival strategy, some hatch earlier than others, some the next Spring.

We raised Swallowtails on parsley one year. Gorgeous butterflies! I'm planting butterfly bush, Buddleia, in late fall this year.

Your blog is a joy.

Becky said...

I love the story and those are the prettiest butterflies I've seen.

Kristin Sherman Olnes said...

What a wonderful experience. Are they swallowtails because that yellow looks familiar, but the splash of other tones are brilliant. We've only used butterfly kits and haven't had luck trying to raise the black caterpillars found in the yard (we still don't know what to feed them or what they are.

BTW: I don't think optimism can be insane. I think that is an oxymoron (wink). Also, you really aren't lazy enough from what I can tell.

Stefaneener said...

Well. That is pretty special. I often wonder why for things -- crazy weather? Some latent sense that tells them when to stay and when to go? Lucky you and gorgeous pictures.

spencer said...



This is so beautiful! Makes my day.

Lesley said...

Oh, you are so lucky to have witnessed this! I have seen several pupae in my garden but not the actual emerging of the butterflies. Great photos and it's a magical and special moment.


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