Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The little caterpillar that couldn't

For my middle sprout's birthday, she received a butterfly habitat. A budding naturalist, this became one of her most prized possessions, and she eagerly awaited the day we could send off for her caterpillars. By the time the weather had warmed enough, she was literally dancing with anticipation. Shortly, her tiny caterpillars arrived. We left for spring break. Upon our return, we were shocked to see enormous caterpillars! They had grown so fast!

All of them seemed to thrive in their little plastic environment. We watched them with delight. A magnifying glass stayed beside them so we could observe them more closely.

One morning, the first caterpillar was found hanging from the environment lid. It was ready to form a chrysalis. By late evening, three others had joined him. The fifth remained on the floor, now littered with little round caterpillar waste.

My eldest read the enclosed paperwork. "They guarantee three to five will live," he intoned seriously.

The next morning, the first had become a chrysalis. Its skin was thin enough so you could still see the shape of the caterpillar within. By that evening, two more had become chrysalises. The fourth one still hung from the lid. The fifth still lay on the floor.

We really hoped that fifth one would make it. We could see it move slightly. It was still alive. Who knew why it didn't make the climb up to the lid? It looked large and presumably healthy. My budding naturalist shrugged her shoulders. She understands nature. Some survive. Some don't.

This morning, heartbreakingly, I saw that fifth caterpillar reach for the side of its container. It reared up slightly, trying to climb. Almost immediately, it fell back.

I know it's ridiculous. I've probably stepped on or driven over countless caterpillars. There's a reason that insects lay multiple eggs, up to 1,000 eggs per time depending upon species. Not all survive.

I know it's probably over for this little caterpillar that couldn't.

In a few days, I hope to have butterfly photos. Ridiculously, I hope to have photos of all five.

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