Raising Flying Flowers

by Stacey Zimmerman | May 21, 2021 | 0 comments

“Stacey, there are three caterpillars on the carrots,” Mom called from the garden.

“Great!” I cheered. As soon as the backyard was all neatly mowed, I hastened to the carrot patch to fetch the plump green caterpillars with gold-dotted black bands that Mom had discovered.

Black swallowtail, male
Black Swallowtail, male. Photo © Paul Reeves/Dreamstime.com.

Two of them were fairly large, while the third was a bit smaller. They were munching away at feathery green carrot tops. When I gently touched one, instantly a pair of orange “horns” sprouted from its head. I removed my finger, and the tiny horns retracted. Perhaps that is their way of trying to scare away predators. I tried to imagine a bird’s reaction to the sudden appearance of horns on its tasty-looking morsel, and chuckled at the image my thoughts created.

I snapped off the sprigs of carrot top that the caterpillars were clinging to and marched up to the house with them. Then down to the cellar I went for three jars in which to place them. Last of all, I covered the jar openings with plastic wrap, secured them with rubber bands, and punched small holes in them with a toothpick.

Now the waiting began. For several days, all the caterpillars did was chomp away on the fresh carrot tops we supplied.

Black swallowtail, female
Black Swallowtail, female. Photo © Pimmimemon/Dreamstime.com.

Then… “One caterpillar made a chrysalis!” my little sister announced.

Sure enough! Instead of a plump caterpillar, there was a green chrysalis in the jar.

A few days later, the remaining caterpillar hung in a J-shape on a twig I had placed in the jar. (The smallest caterpillar had died.)

“I’d better keep an eye on that fellow. I want to watch it make the chrysalis,” I told myself. I checked the jar repeatedly without seeing any action. Then I forgot about it for awhile. Lo, when I checked on it again, the jar held a green chrysalis! Aww…

Black swallowtail larva

Then about ten days later, someone noticed that the first chrysalis was becoming transparent! However, the butterfly had not yet hatched when it was bedtime.

Just as I had expected, the next morning a lovely black swallowtail butterfly fluttered about in the jar, trying to find an escape route.

After breakfast we all trooped outside. Everyone gathered around as I removed the plastic wrap.

“There it goes!”

Enjoying its new-found freedom, the beautiful “flying flower” soon disappeared from sight.

About a week later, we noticed that the remaining chrysalis was becoming transparent.

Determined not to miss out on this event, I watched the chrysalis extremely carefully. Once in a while it wriggled vigorously. Then suddenly there was a split in it! Immediately the head and legs worked their way out, and with a mighty wiggle, the whole butterfly was FREE!

However, it didn’t look like a butterfly yet. Its body appeared swollen, and its wings were small and crumpled.

Gradually, as the butterfly crawled around on the twig, its body shrank, and its wings unfolded and dried. Within forty minutes, the miraculous transformation was complete, and a magnificent butterfly had replaced the small green chrysalis in the jar. I felt blessed to have witnessed such a wonderful part of God’s creation!

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