All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small
all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all!
About a week and a half ago, friend Stan Leece and fellow butterfly enthusiast Denise Duval gave a presentation about raising monarch butterflies to our DAR chapter. This was truly show and tell, as they brought in milkweed plants, caterpillars and even a caterpillar condo ready for sheltering hungry caterpillars while growing and chrysalis-izing (or whatever you call it when they spin a chrysalis).
Stan shared the wealth and sent interested members home with milkweed. I took two plants, one for myself and one for my sister-in-law. My daughter had scheduled Stan for the meeting and so was already well versed in his caterpillar escapades, but this was new to my son – who wound up with my milkweed plant to grow on his apartment balcony. So, off to Hebert’s Garden Center I went in search of more milkweed. I figured “oh, I’ll just get a plant for myself, and let nature take its course. I don’t have time to make a caterpillar condo…”
I should have known better. Just because I didn’t have a “‘diller dome” didn’t mean I couldn’t make one. Especially as Family Dollar had exactly what I needed: A pair of clear, cheap plastic bowls for each dome. A bit of hot glue, a couple of empty (washed) pill containers to hold milkweed clippings in water, a heated screwdriver for making ventilation holes and some binder clips later and I had diller domes for all budding butterfly enthusiasts in my neighborhood. I was ready for resident caterpillars.
The milkweed had plenty of tiny eggs, and within a day, I found a caterpillar on the plant. I scooped him up and moved him into his new home, and he was quickly followed by two more caterpillars. They began munching happily. (Well, I guess they were happy. They didn’t seem otherwise…) And sleeping. And pooping.
I quickly understood why Stan had said “you WILL run out of milkweed. Don’t panic!” I also understood the children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Good grief!! These little fellows were VERY hungry! They nibbled away methodically.
The biggest one eventually formed a J. I knew he’d be turning into a chrysalis soon, but didn’t realize the little sneak would wait until I was out of the house. I’d been gone an hour and a half, and when I came back I had two caterpillars and one chrysalis!
I sent Stan a photo. Yikes, that was quick! They’re fast, he said. And he was right.
Saturday, I was doing housework and checking on the other two caterpillars. They’d become J shaped overnight, affixing themselves to the top of the diller dome. I walked in to see the bottom of one turning green! He spun his chrysalis as I watched – and then the other one began as well!
Have you seen some of those shapewear ads on social media? You know, the one with a Rubenesque woman wiggling into spandex shapewear? Well, that’s what the caterillars reminded me of. The green sheath worked its way up those caterpillar bodies while they squirmed. The exoskeleton dropped off as the spinning was complete, but they kept wiggling for a bit, settling into their sleeping bags. I could still see their stripes for a while.
Sunday morning’s sunlight showed very little of the former caterpillar through the semi-translucent casing. I now have three beautiful jade-colored chrysali in my kitchen. In a couple of weeks (or less) they will be monarch butterflies.
I can’t help but think that God had a great time dreaming up this entire process.
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
— Cecil Frances Alexander, 1848