9.17.2009

If You Love Someone,

Set them free. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It started one morning when George woke me with the news that he had found an interesting specimen in the garden for us. He put it in a small bucket on the dining room table, and I nearly forgot about his discovery until lunch time.

black swallowtail caterpillar

I was enthralled with this caterpillar. His color combination was a bold statement only Nature could pull off. I googled "green caterpillar with black stripes and orange dots" and quickly identified our new friend was a black swallowtail caterpillar. I was giddy with the idea of hatching such a beautiful butterfly.

We set up a habitat in a glass jar (on the dining room table of course) and kept the carrot tops coming. He proved to be an eating and pooping machine!

black swallowtail caterpillar

Then he got tired of our constant observation and the monotonous diet of carrot tops. He pined for something more exotic - perhaps fennel or parsley. After putting up with us for several days, he climbed to the top of the habitat, and walked around and around the top of his jar, seeking a way down and out.

He must have found it, for when I checked on him one last time, he was nowhere near his temporary home. Avery found him, half way across the room, inching towards the area rug in the living room. He had traveled down the jar, across the table, down the table, and across the heaviest traffic spot in our house. Thank goodness he survived unscathed!

I decided to set him free. We picked him up, experiencing firsthand the look and smell of his special scent horns, and put him back where George had found him in the garden. I've looked for him since, to no avail. I miss that little guy, and look forward to seeing him again...with wings.

22 comments:

  1. It can be so tempting to 'hold on' to creatures we have discovered. Yet, it is so important to appreciate them fully in the brief time they are contained and then let them go. We had a similar caterpillar encounter this weekend with the LARGEST caterpillar you can imagine. http://lettresdemonmoulin.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/one-enormous-caterpillar/ There was great interest in keeping him, but in the end he crept back into the underbrush unharmed to emerge next spring - we hope.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We found one several years ago - I put in the jar just as you did that afternoon, but the next morning we found him creating the cocoon.

    Ours was a Luna Moth - and we were so priviledged to get to see him emerge and plump wings before letting him go. It was amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Funny... I was just outside looking at the caterpillars on our vine outside. A whole new bunch of them! The kids asked if we could bring them in like we did last time and I decided no - lets let them do their thing outside. We'll watch from afar this time :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Handsome little guy, I am so glad he didn't get munched in his trek across the house.
    We lost a caterpillar in a similar way last year. No idea what became of him. One hour he was there, the next, vanished...

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a sweet story & beautiful photos, Molly ! :)
    Funny that yesterday afternoon I was making green caterpillars with felt, for my boys ! Happy coincidence !
    I hope you'll be able to see it with its wings wide open !
    oxoxoxo

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a beautiful caterpillar! I'm glad you let it go.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Love caterpillars and their living reminder of life, renewed and changed. Thanks for sharing, Molly...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Caterpillars! Caterpillars! They are everywhere! :)
    He is so beautiful and huge!! Hope you get to see him with wings!

    ReplyDelete
  9. what a striking caterpillar! creation is amazing!

    ReplyDelete
  10. What a gorgeous caterpillar, such striking colours.

    Glad he was found safe and sound and happily returned to the garden.

    Christie

    ReplyDelete
  11. We let our hornworm go yesterday morning, as well. He'd been sitting on our kitchen table for a few days and I just couldn't bear the site of him in that jar any longer We put him back on the piles of tomato plants in the compost pile...

    ReplyDelete
  12. caterpillars are so funky! I was in a butterfly garden at the London zoo the other day-- it was awesome... but a little bit artificial-- all of them kept under a big inflatable caterpillar-shaped structure. I guess that's the point of zoos and all, but still... little bit weird.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The monarch butterflies didn't make it to Maine this year (at least in great numbers), so we have missed the caterpillars and the whole beautiful transformation. Our milkweed meadow is just not the same. So it's wonderful to see this gorgeous guy.

    ReplyDelete
  14. We had some of these in our garden last week. They sure do eat a lot!

    ReplyDelete
  15. we have fields of milkweed surrounding our home and we have not seen many monarch caterpillars this year like we have in the past...
    they are such gorgeous creatures from start to finish!

    ReplyDelete
  16. He is beautiful. I hope you see him again after his transformation.

    ReplyDelete
  17. we found some of these in the dill this year, but i didn't know then what they were! luckily we don't smoosh. because think about how beautiful they are now.


    great photos! nature's brilliance.

    ReplyDelete
  18. wow, what a nice perspective. it's amazing how far they can travel. I hope you see him with wings.

    ReplyDelete
  19. amazing capture of an amazing creature! I haven't seen anything like that around our house. Good for you for setting it free.

    ReplyDelete
  20. What a stunning and determined little creature! A desire for freedom can motivate one to achieve the most amazing feats, yes?

    ReplyDelete

Archive

email: mollydunham@sbcglobal.net
Share |