As in all aspects of life sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Now and then, a problem arises, and I’ve had a few with this latest batch of butterflies. I related a bad choice a caterpillar made in Part III of Raising Black Swallowtail Butterflies, a chrysalis on a screen door spring is a terrible place to go through a metamorphosis. Sure enough, my prediction proved true, and after a storm shook the door, after several slams, the girdle of the chrysalis broke loose.
I knew that if left alone, further shaking, wind, and door slams would shake loose the silken pad too. I knew I needed to attach it in an unobtrusive way so that when the butterfly emerged, the surroundings would be as lifelike as possible. I had garden string at hand, and knowing it is six strands twisted together, unwound a few inches, and used one strand to tie the chrysalis back to the door spring. It worked. I was relieved and elated when a perfect butterfly emerged.
One problem I can’t fix is a butterfly that emerges with a twisted wing. In this case the best thing I can do is place it on some nectar flowers and hope for the best.
Another problem is vacationing and raising butterflies in the same span of time. When vacation is two weeks off I stop collecting the caterpillars and concentrate on finding a way to get them to attach to something I can move outside. I found two solutions, one quite by accident.
On Father’s Day this year we had quite a few people over, and I knew that the vase of fennel and caterpillars would be a problem. The caterpillars had been dropping off and creating their chrysalis for several days, but there were quite a few that would most likely drop off on the day we had company. I placed the caterpillars in a tall box and shut the lid, keeping them safe from the many feet that would pass through the porch to the backyard. The next day I found the caterpillars had indeed dropped off the fennel. Finding nowhere to go, two of them had attached themselves to the side of the corrugated cardboard box. I was pleased, and also elated, I was able to cut off a square of this and share it with a friend who needed a magical moment. If you want to share the magic with a child or friend, this is the way to achieve it.
Vacation time arrived, I knew several mature caterpillars would be ready to drop and form their chrysalis, and most likely would emerge while we were gone. Not wanting them to starve on the screened in porch, or be eaten before they had a chance to develop if I set them free outdoors, I crafted an enclosure out of a tomato cage. I used wide crafting mesh I had left over from Halloween, and a few clothespins. It was easy to do, and I expected to find all the caterpillars forming chrysalis on the mesh. I was surprised when most chose the steel of the tomato cage instead. After metamorphosis had begun I removed the mesh and placed the cage outdoors.
While on vacation the butterflies did hatch. I was so happy when I arrived home to find all had emerged from the chrysalis and flown away, leaving just the empty shell behind.
Why do I do this you might ask. Because every time the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly I am amazed…and…if I chose to just walk away and leave them where they first hatch most get eaten by predators. Also…
If I hadn’t hatched the butterflies this year I would have missed this extra special moment…my father holding a Black Swallowtail butterfly as it was getting ready to fly. Priceless!