By Ken DeLaat
It started innocently enough.
LSC Lil and I were at the annual Celtic Fest in Sparta last month just hanging out at a picnic table watching some dancing on the main stage when a pair of couples asked if they could share the seats. The two women began chatting and one mentioned to her friend that she has been raising Monarch butterflies. The music was loud, so were their voices and thus it was overheard .
On the way home Lil brought up the Monarch thing and wondered about why someone would be raising them. I mentioned an article we posted earlier this summer in Near North Now (apparently she is not exactly a regular reader) about efforts to increase what has become a dwindling population.
Her interest particularly piqued, Lil immediately began exploring the subject via internet on the way home while sharing a sea of factoids about assisting the process of caterpillar to butterfly as a way of avoiding the dangers that are visited on these beauties by predators.
That word. Predators
A few things about Lil.
She is without a doubt the kindest person I know. Perhaps a lifetime career in nursing has helped forge this endearing attribute or possibly her inherent altruism led her to what I would consider this most honorable profession. Either way her level of compassion is without compare.
She is also a bit of a perfectionist which makes for intriguing conversations during projects over the years.
“There. I think that should do it.”
“Why isn’t it finished?”
“Well, it’s more of a process kind of thing. It needs to evolve a little more.”
“Meaning you aren’t going to finish it today…….again….”
“Yep. I’d say that sums it up.”
A truly patient woman.
Lil is also a champion of the underdog. She possesses little regard for bullies or those who might victimize others in any way and there also exists a deep and abiding consideration when it comes to most living creatures with some notable exceptions.
No love lost for mosquitos who seem to hold a strong desire for her blood and an equal disdain for wasps and hornets due to their predatory (That word again) nature.
Returning home Lil did a survey of our gardens and found a caterpillar clinging to one of our plants (A butterfly weed. Go figure.). She also noted the presence of wasps/hornets circling the area and having gained knowledge of their predatory (word again) instincts when it comes to butterflies and their pre-winged previous incarnations decided intervention was deemed necessary
Two days later thanks to the wonder that is Amazon a butterfly cage appeared on our doorstep. Dismayed when she couldn’t locate our local larva guy she spotted a chrystallius clinging precariously to the back of one of our porch chairs. In full view of potential predators (word).
He was the first. She gently maneuvered him into the house and somehow was able to attach him near a freshly cut plant in the newly acquired metamorphosis manor. We watched daily as the silkened structure transformed into a jade green translucent marvel and one day while backs were momentarily turned it broke out in full wingspread as a magnificent Monarch.
After a bit of acclimation he (You can apparently tell by the wings. Who knew?) was brought outside and set free. It was a magical moment.
Since then our living area has been populated by nearly a dozen caterpillars in various stages. We have witnessed these beings spin into chrysalises in three separate facilities. Four butterflies have emerged from our household and from what I can gather it appears this might be merely training camp for next year when the effort truly takes hold.
Through mere conversation I have acquired more knowledge regarding butterflies than I could have hoped to have absorbed in any biology classroom.
And having spent 45 years with their benefactor, the tender-hearted lady who is known to murmur gently to them as she sets them off in the world, there is no surprise in how this all happened so quickly.
None at all.
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