We’re empty netters now

It’s amazing how a little dose of parenthood can change your perspective. I suppose this is true in regard to human children too, but I’m thinking about the parenting of adopted insects.

For Big Man’s birthday, we got him a butterfly kit. This is a plastic cup of caterpillars and some mysterious earthy substance that we assumed was their food.

The caterpillars looked dead when we took their plastic habitat out of its box. At that point, our emotional attachment to them went no deeper than figuring out how to return a box of dead insects for a full refund.

The caterpillars were not dead; they were sleepy from their long, dark journey from the caterpillar factory. With a little light added to their world, they came to life, eating the mass of brown stuff and growing at an impressive rate. At the moment we discerned the change in their sizes, our emotional attachment to a cup full of bugs began.

They were supposed to climb to the lid of the container and there attach themselves for cocoon construction. We all gasped with awe at baby’s first steps as one, then another, began the climb. They must have been still a little hungry, because one after another they came back down for a snack, putting us all on an emotional roller coaster as they went up and down without attaching themselves to anything.

At last one of them hung from the lid and began the transformation. There was rejoicing throughout the land. One by one, they all followed suit, with the exception of one confused late bloomer. We wrung our hands over him, speculating upon whether he was ill or just daft. Finally, he joined his comrades and we all breathed easier.

We transferred them to their netted nursery. How long was it supposed to take them to be (re)born? No one knew. Days of doubt followed. One morning, there was a real, live butterfly clinging to the netting, his cocoon an empty shell. More rejoicing ensued.

It’s so hard to get children to smile for the camera.

Another butterfly appeared, then another and another. All but one had emerged victorious. While we waited and worried about the last, we cut up tangerines and carefully set the fruit inside the cage for food. I busied myself making our babies happy and comfortable, careful not to let anyone escape.

This made me realize that if a cousin of these precious creatures had flown into the house from outside, my wife would be chasing it with a bottle of Windex and a fly swatter. She’s not fond of insects, except the ones that are family.

We prepared ourselves for the worst regarding the remaining cocoon. Just when we had given up hope, there was movement. The butterfly struggled, but could not free himself. It was heartbreaking to watch him entangle himself deeper in silk and cocoon wreckage.

My wife prodded me to help him. With a toothpick I tore away his sticky fetters. I freed him, but alas, his wings were malformed. At my wife’s bidding, I set our poor Tiny Tim down next to the fruit, so the doomed child might live out his days in comfort.

The day came to send the kids out on their own. All but one found their way out into the open air. The last stayed by the fruit. My wife was convinced he was refusing to leave his wounded buddy. He might have just been hungry. The next day, the injured one expired. We gave the last healthy butterfly another chance to go. Having a clear conscience, he did not stay for the eulogy.

I wonder where the kids are now. Have they stayed nearby or are they off to see the world. I hope they don’t come home to visit. We don’t like insects in our house.


6 comments on “We’re empty netters now

  1. Just Joan says:

    I’m glad most of the butterflies survived and started their journey to wherever butterflies go. Bless you for being so patient and allowing your kids to bring nature in the house. My mom was far too fussy for that. We caught fireflies and put them in a jar with holes poked in the lid, but they died within days. Come to think of it, I don’t remember putting food in the jar or even having any idea what they eat. I saw fly swatters in the seasonal aisle at the drug store and was amazed they still make them. Swatting flies seems too germy to appeal to people nowadays. How about a nice hands-off electric bug zapper?

    • We’ll, at least you poked holes in the lid. I guess starvation is slightly better than suffocation. If you could find a wire-handled flyswatter, you’d probably have a valuable heirloom.

  2. Kenneth T. says:

    My understanding is:
    Never help a butterfly from its cocoon.
    The struggle is real, BUT it also is the last stages of wing development. Without the difficult moments, the wings fail to form properly, and then death comes.

  3. markbialczak says:

    A life lesson from the winged world for sure, Scott.

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