Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Pet Butterfly

A couple years ago, my mom got Sonya a Butterfly Garden like this one for her birthday.  Basically, it's a place to house caterpillars who have gone into their chrysalis and are about to turn into butterflies.  You order the caterpillars from the same place you get the Butterfly Garden.  When you get the caterpillars, they are in a little cup with a lid.  They are so tiny when they arrive that you can barely find them, but they all become "the very hungry caterpillar", and in a week they are ginormous.  Then they climb to the top of the cup and form a chrysalis around themselves.  At this point you open the cup and move them to the Butterfly Garden, where you wait for them to come out as beautiful butterflies.  This is something we've done at least 3 or 4 times, since my mom got this for us.  I just order new caterpillars when the weather starts getting warmer so we can watch it all over again.  It's inexpensive, and educational for the girls and they LOVE it.  In all the times we've been doing it, we have have always ended up with five perfect butterflies.  That is, until this time.

I thought things were going fine, until I noticed three of the five caterpillars had formed their chrysalis on the bottom of the cup.  I've never seen this happen before.  They always hang upside down from the top, so already I was a bit weary of how these guys were going to turn out.  Then about a week ago, they started to come out of their pupal stage.  The first one I found was perfect and flying around.  The second one came out and he appeared to have his wings folded down, but I figured when they dried out a little more he'd be okay.  Then over the next day the other three opened up and also seemed perfectly fine.  I did notice however, that the one who had the folded down wings, did NOT get better.  He stayed on the bottom of the garden and would open his folded wings every now and then, but it was clear he was not in good shape.

This spawned a discussion about how the butterfly had something wrong with him.  I told the girls he was born handicapped.  He was just as important as the other butterflies, but he was not going to be able to do as much, like fly for example.  I was worried about what was going to happen when we released him, but unfortunately(or perhaps fortunately), he died before he got that far.

The other four butterflies were anxious to leave and get out into the world to party with their other butterfly friends, so on Saturday we released them.  The first couple took off as soon as we opened up the garden. Sonya wanted to hold the other ones before we let them go, so I allowed her.  She gently took out one placed it on her hand, and he quickly flew away.  Then she took the last one, who I noticed, had one wing that looked a little funky.  She put him on her hand, but when he tried to fly away he quickly fell to the ground.  Turns out he was a bit handicapped too.  I told the girls to carefully pick him up and place him on some flowers in our backyard.  It was at this point that they decided he was theirs to keep.

The rest of the day the butterfly was walked around the yard on Sonya's hand, with Lana and Georgia getting a turn every now and then.  He would flutter his wings, but he couldn't go anywhere.  Sonya was walking around yelling,

"This butterfly REALLY likes me! He just keeps sitting on my hand! He's not even trying to go anywhere!"

I didn't have the heart to tell her, that if he tried to fly away he would nose dive into the grass, so for survival sake, he was staying put on her hand.   By the end of the day the girls had named him, "Butterscotch".  Great, now we HAD to keep him.  They put him back in the flowers for the night, where I was sure he would meet his demise.

The next day, the first thing the girls did when they got up was go outside to look for Butterscotch.  Damned if that butterfly wasn't still there.  Again, he was carried around all day by Sonya, and at one point they made a table full of flowers as a sort of buffet for him, and let him sit on top.  They would put him back in the flower bed from time to time and then check on him again, carrying him around the yard.  When night came, he went back to the same spot.

Then yesterday morning, they ran outside again to check on good ol' Butterscotch.  This time, unfortunately, he was nowhere to be found.  We have cats that wander our neighborhood at night as well as the occasional rat and opossum so who knows what creature found Butterscotch that night, but there was no sign of him.  The girls were upset and walking around the yard calling his name.


I'm not kidding.  This went on for at least thirty minutes.  At one point, another butterfly flew by the area where Butterscotch had been living and Lana decided that was probably him.  He could probably just fly now.  Sure, that sounds good.  Better than the thought of him being eaten by a rat.  Although, I can assure you, there was no way he could all of a sudden fly.  But my girls are still young, and  I see no reason to crush their hope of Butterscotch flying around. Perhaps he's hanging out with his butterfly friends now, instead of being digested in some critter.  They have plenty of time to find out that life can be more sucky and less hopeful like that.  No reason to make them jaded now.  Besides, I guess there is that hopeful piece of me that wonders if maybe, just maybe he didn't magically get better and fly away.  Unfortunately, the logical side knows that isn't possible, and life IS just sucky like that. 

R.I.P. Butterscotch

PS-I had to add this.  As I was finishing up this post, the girls were outside having a snack.  Then I heard Lana yell,

"Look!  A butterfly!"

Sonya said, "Awww, it must be Butterscotch, because he's not flying very well."

Life really is better when you're young and naive.

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