When Dreams Take Flight II

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cletuslee (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Yesterday I wrote about Dan Gingrich, the CSO french horn player who raises butterflies as a hobby; he’s raised and released probably thousands of them over the years.  He’s a family friend and his love of playing butterfly midwife (can a man be a midwife?) inspired me to do the same.

So two summers ago, I started collecting butterfly eggs from  the milkweed plants in our backyard and before long, I had a full nursery going.  The nursery first consisted of about eight plastic cups to hold the eggs until they hatched.  Also in the cups were milkweed leaves for the tiny caterpillars to eat once they hatched.  So far, so good.

But every time I looked in the backyard, there seemed to be more and more butterfly eggs attached to the milkweed plants.  I didn’t think it was fair to save some eggs and not others, so I adopted a “no-egg-left-behind” strategy.  As a result, I soon wound up with about 40 eggs–which is fine when they’re just eggs.  But guess what?  The eggs hatch!

Soon I had a legion of tiny caterpillars for whom I had assumed responsibility.  And it was astonishing how fast they grew…and how much they ate.   Fortunately, their food of choice is milkweed leaves, so I would simply go to the backyard and harvest some leaves and put them in the cups with the caterpillars.  But their appetites were remarkable and before long I had pretty much defoliated the handful of milkweed plants in my backyard.

And once they got bigger, I had to separate the individual caterpillars because each one was going through so many leaves they each needed their own cup.  So now I had 40 cups on the kitchen counter.  But then another issue came up–they tended to climb out of their cups and wander on the counter.  My solution was simply to put another cup on top of the first so the cups were meeting mouth-to-mouth.  Now I had 80 cups on the counter.

But there was another by-product of all this that my paternal instincts hadn’t anticipated.  It exacerbated an increasingly messy and complicated set-up.  Details tomorrow, along with the surprising conclusion to my Summer of Good Intentions.

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