10/8 butterfly cats

Since school started this year with the boys virtual full time I’ve realized the moments that bring me the most joy are the ones unplanned and unscripted. The lessons of love, respect and communication as we navigate being together all the time. The spontaneous science projects and crafts but my favorite yet is the butterfly caterpillars. Very recently on a walk though my garden I discovered a handful (6 to be exact) swallowtail butterfly caterpillars! I love the bugs around our property and had recently learned about these low flying wasps that hover our yard and garden. They’re called ground wasps and search for larva of bugs to lay their eggs on making it prey to their hungry larva. These wasps sleep huddled in my fennel buds the same place where the butterfly caterpillars were now growing. I decided to bring them in in an effort to spare them the fate of the tomato horn worms I found a few weeks earlier who had already fallen prey to the wasps. Pictured last you can see the white eggs embedded in the worm rendering it paralyzed to be sustenance for the young wasp larva. Isn’t nature a trip?! So we scrambled to do our research in order to bring the caterpillars inside. I arranged a bouquet of their host plants parsley, rue, Queen Ann’s lace, dill, and of course fennel. It was such an enjoyable distraction watching them munch. One day I noticed one of the cats moving rather quickly all around the bouquet till it found its way off and onto the table. I scooped it up with a piece of paper and put it back only for it to find it’s way off again. Through a little added research I learned that when the cats are ready to chrysalis they move as fast and far away from their host plant as possible looking for a safer place to cocoon. I had provided some sticks but added a few more and it eventually found a spot it liked. My plan was to build an enclosure for the others but didn’t get it accomplished before 2 of the cats disappeared! They move fast and our search efforts were in vain. Wondering if one day we’ll find a butterfly lose in our house. We were able to get an old aquarium set up for the reaming 4 who have all formed their chrysalis. I’ve heard there’s varying success and sometimes this late in the year they opt to over winter till spring time. Regardless of the outcome the experience has been inspiring with plans to increase our butterfly attraction garden and propagate milkweed to attract monarchs as well. Next year I’d like to build a structure that we can keep outside to house the cats safely but keep them exposed to the elements.

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