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Thursday, June 18, 2015

“They have to get married.”

Butterfly kits normally come with around 20 larvae and a cup of artificial food which is barely enough for the really very hungry caterpillars. When this year’s batch came, the children and I counted 34 larvae. Nearly twice the usual count! How was I to feed them all? I would have to drive around town for hollyhocks again just like what I had done each year. They eat ravenously!
Though the kit was delivered later than usual, the temperatures wouldn’t stabilize. There were days when it was chilly overnight and some caterpillars froze to death before forming chrysalises. Then there were warm days again. The children were glad to view the chrysalises, eager to see a Painted Lady coming out one day. The nights became chilly once more and some chrysalises turned black after ten days, past the supposed emergence date of the butterflies. The delay baffled us all. The children were checking the calendar every day and were getting impatient. I asked them to make good guesses: if the butterflies need warm temperatures and it has been too cold for them, what could be happening? Twelve days passed and they finally emerged, some with distorted wings as the air had been too dry. I should’ve misted the chrysalises! Alberta’s air is always dry.
The end of the week was perfect for releasing the butterflies: flowers were blooming and the sun was shining. I didn’t have to worry about leaving artificial sugary food that could attract ants—the predators of butterflies. “Awww! We have to let them go?” The children were complaining as expected. “They belong to nature!” said the smart ones. “How about saying goodbye and wish they get a partner in two weeks?” I reminded them. “Yes, because they only live for two weeks. They have to get married and have eggs,” said another. Pretty darn right!

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