Friday, July 16, 2010

Growing Butterflies

Aidan's bike screeches to an abrupt halt and drops to the ground in a flash.  The lure of a patch of milkweed was too much for this young nature enthusiast.  Within seconds he finds one, then two, then three, then 10 to 20 monarch caterpillars.  Our boy is in heaven.

He begs to take one home.

Visions of a caterpillar, a glass jar and the sun cause us to hesitate.  Finally, a bargain is struck "You can come back and collect a caterpillar if you... research how to raise a monarch butterfly, build a proper enclosure, commit to the entire process."

Within two hours, Aidan has done his research on the internet, has built a suitable enclosure out of K'nex and has prepared a spot in his room to house the caterpillars.  He is committed.

Later that evening, he brings home 5 monarch caterpillars and a bunch of milkweed leaves.  Our butterfly adventure has begun.

I must admit, I wasn't thrilled about having 5 caterpillars in our house, especially after reading how much they poop!  It's a good thing monarch caterpillars are fairly attractive - as far as creepy crawly things go.

Watching the caterpillars turn into beautiful green chrysalises was absolutely fascinating.  They truly are  breathtaking.

If that wasn't enough to win me over, the final transformation from chrysalis to butterfly certainly did it.  Wow, what an amazing process.  Monarchs are so beautiful.

Even better was watching how interested, excited and fascinated the kids were in the whole process.  When they released each butterfly, it was evident that they knew they were part of something special.  If I thought vegetable gardening built a connection to Mother Nature, growing butterflies is even more powerful at doing so.

Yesterday, we released the last of our 5 butterflies - Little Bob.  Yes, of course, they all had names (Jeff, Hi, Fred, Big Bob and Little Bob).

But our butterfly adventures have not come to an end.  We have adopted 2 more caterpillars (Rainbow White and Bob the Awesome One) after another walk along the river.  And, yesterday, after a visit to Sage Gardens, we came home with milkweed, delphiniums and astilbe to plant our very own butterfly garden in our back yard.

What have we done!

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