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27/52 – Freedom

July 7, 2013

27/52 - Freedom

“Operation patterpilla” began innocently enough. (If you don’t speak toddler, patterpilla = caterpillar).

I’m married to a woman who was born and raised in northern Ontario.  From roadkill explorations to raising mice in her garage, for Otto there’s both comfort and familiarity in bringing wild animals into the domestic realm.  She puts bees in jars for the Doodle to observe and she transforms containers into miniature habitats for ants and grubs.  I find worms that have escaped crawling loose in the fridge and she doesn’t hesitate to scoop up a frog and put it into a child’s pocket.

She’s adventurous, and it’s one of the many things I love about her.

Every year we plant containers of herbs outside our side door. And every year the dill is demolished by caterpillars.

Operation pattapilla started out as mission to rescue the dill.  The five little things were plucked off the dill and placed into a jar, a jar that was supposed to be their temporary home for day or so, until we could relocate them somewhere away from the aforementioned dill.

Only they were very hungry little things and we were quickly mesmerized by their capacity to eat.  We kept on placing sprigs of dill in the jar and it vanished before our eyes.  So we had to pick more dill just to see how quickly they could eat it. 

These little caterpillars ate around the clock.  And instead of our dill plant being saved, it because sustenance for the caterpillars that had  somehow become the latest household pet.

A little research uncovered that these were swallowtail caterpillars and they were transferred into an abandoned fish bowl that Otto outfitted with soil, twigs, and more fresh herbs. And, of course, a lid.

Our very own tiny hungry caterpillars grew and grew and they became big caterpillars, which one day cocooned, and two weeks later re-emerged as butterflies.

If you’ve never watched this cycle before, it’ is pretty fascinating.

One morning we went to swim lessons and left five caterpillars in the container.  We returned home to find four caterpillars and one cocoon.  I had erroneously thought that they slowly built a cocoon, but it was their skin that transformed into that temporary shelter.  I wanted a camera with time-stop capacity so I wouldn’t miss how one of these glorious butterflies actually emerges, but I was never quite able to get it together.

This is the last butterfly to break free.  One minute I was making jam, frequently running back and forth between the dining room table to check on the cocoon and the boiling pot of summery goodness on the stove, and the next minute the swallowtail butterfly had emerged.

The struggle to break free must be exhausting.  The butterfly, with wet wings, rests for a long time and resting period gives its wings the time needed to dry so it can fly away.

Can you imagine going to sleep being able to walk and waking up being able to fly? That’s the dance of the butterfly.

Operation Patterpillar Commences
Look at them grow!

Very hungry caterpillars = Big caterpillars

Observing the caterpillars

The beginnings of a cocoon!

All caterpillars cocoon

Hatched in a fish bowl

Setting butterflies free

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2013 3:17 am

    Stunning pictures, The first one especially.

  2. July 21, 2013 11:38 pm

    Crazy! The same thing just happened here! A little while back, I’d bought my son a little bug catcher container thing he wanted from Toys R Us. Next thing I know, hubby has helped the kids collect some caterpillars in it. I was amazed to see how quickly they transformed into cocoons (and how much poop they created!). We were away this weekend and when we got back in the house, there was the jar — filled with cabbage butterflies! Not as interesting in colour as yours. A simple pale yellow with two black dots.

  3. July 24, 2013 5:29 pm

    We did some caterpillars back in May and Juju just loved them. What a super way to watch and learn and observe. Next time I may get some little models of the butterfly life cycle for her to play with. Aren’t you luck to have a wife who captures bees and whatnot? 🙂

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