Her kids' encounter with a butterfly changed this mom's feelings about pesky caterpillars.
By Julie Campbell Sohm, Holly Hill, South Carolina
As a stay-at-home mom, I sometimes get interesting calls during the day. The latest was from my neighbor Carolyn asking, "Would you like some caterpillars?"
I'd just applied insecticide to my azaleas to protect them from some humongous caterpillars. I was the last person who'd want more. But Carolyn explained that she'd gathered these particular caterpillars before so her grandson could watch them miraculously transform into beautiful eastern black swallowtails.
When she put it that way, how could I pass up an opportunity to show my children, Will and Jacey, one of God's remarkable wonders?
As Carolyn walked us down her garden path, she explained that these caterpillars had an insatiable taste for parsley. She started snipping the plant where the caterpillars were munching, and put the little rascals into a glass jar.
They were green with black and yellow stripes, and measured 1 to 2-1/2 inches long. The biggest ones, Carolyn said, were almost ready to make their chrysalides.
We took about 15 caterpillars home and watched them eat...and eat...and eat. When I ran out of parsley, no substitute would do. The caterpillars would've preferred to die rather than eat the lettuce and cabbage I put in the jar. To the store I went.
Eventually, one of the biggest caterpillars climbed up a stick, spun something like a trapeze and assumed a 45-degree angle with its south end clinging to the underside of the stick. By morning, it formed the shell that would shelter it as it developed into a butterfly.
More chrysalides followed. Those attached to the stick blended with it. The chrysalides attached to the jar or lid were more translucent. We marveled at this.
My children ran to the jar each morning to see if the butterflies had emerged. One day Will burst into my bedroom announcing one "hatched."
Sure enough, there it was drying its wings, fanning them back and forth. They were black, dappled with yellow, and there was a dash of blue near the end of its tail.
After a few hours, it appeared ready to leave its protected environment and see the world. I reached into the jar and the butterfly climbed onto my finger. The children leaned in as the butterfly climbed from my hand to Will's.
The wind picked up a bit, and the butterfly decided it was time to take wing. It flitted close to us, then took off. We waved good-bye and good luck, and vowed from now on to welcome all caterpillars to our garden.