The Cycle of Life…A Case Study

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Last summer I began watching these beautiful green caterpillars eating my ALL of my Italian flat-leaf parsley – I did some research on the internet and found out they were black swallowtail butterflies.  I purchased a “butterfly” castle (a mesh tent about 3’ high and 2’ wide) from Live Monarch in which I placed the caterpillars and the parsley plants to protect them from wasps and other predators.  After a couple of weeks, they went into the chrysalis stage and a couple of weeks after that, out came the butterflies.  It was truly an amazing experience to witness. 

In September, the last of the ten caterpillars went into chrysalis and stayed that way for eight months.  I was fearful that they didn’t survive the winter.  I have been checking the tent every day to see if there were butterflies, but as of yesterday morning – nothing.  I was so amazingly surprised yesterday afternoon to see that two butterflies had emerged from their cocoons.  What a miracle.  You can see the process here.

Speaking of butterflies, monarchs need our help.  Over 70% of the monarch population perished in a freeze in Mexico in 1991 and the population has not recovered.  To complicate matters, Monarchs only eat and lay eggs on Milkweed, and these plants have been largely eliminated due to development.  You can get milkweed seeds from Live Monarch.org for a nominal charge and help the Monarchs thrive.  The butterfly castles help keep the caterpillars and chrysalis safe.  (I have my milkweed seeds and plan to purchase a couple more castles to help the Monarch population).  Watching the process with the swallowtail butterflies has been an awesome experience for me, and one I hope to repeat again this summer.

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