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  • Writer's pictureMiss Lis

Raising Butterflies

Ordering painted lady caterpillars in the mail was interesting and easy. I ordered in mid March (I live in NYC) and the temperature is recommended to be above 55 degrees and not higher than 85 degrees for the entire shipment time it takes the tiny caterpillars to arrive at ones doorstep. I ordered as soon as it looked as though the weather was going to cooperate. The weather, however, dipped about 10 degrees colder than expected after I place my order. It turned out to be fine and the caterpillars arrived in good condition (I ordered 12 of them). They were delivered by UPS and I signed for them at my door on a Saturday.

I was feeling eager for spring to arrive when I placed my order online, and I had been checking the weather a lot........something about raising butterflies gave me the illusion that I was ushering spring in, in a hurry! It has been a long, cold and dark winter here in the city. When the days finally become noticeably longer in NYC, it felt as though a huge weight had been lifted.

Butterflies were just the thing I needed this year. Watching the little painted lady caterpillars eat and grow noticeably larger each day in late march brought a sense of marked change even as the warm weather played peek-a-boo. And the caterpillars gave me unexpected anxiety when they finally shed their skin for about the sixth and final time to create chrysalis's by hanging from the roof in the two caterpillar cups I had ordered.

The first chrysalis was knocked down by the other caterpillars onto the floor filled with their pre-inserted food floor. I googled what to do and found that a fallen crysalis should be placed on a paper towel and that its nothing to worry about. I decided to wait to do anything because all the caterpillars are supposed to go into chrysalis form before transferring them to their butterfly habitat which is a netted round cylindrical cage with a zipper at the top.

They began going into chrysalis form on a Saturday morning which was a few days earlier than expected. I had plans to go to New Jersey and drink wine on a farm and pet the animals, and I was a little nervous leaving the butterflies while they were changing. I knew worrying wasn't going to do any good though, and it would be a very cool surprise to come home to the rest in their new state.

I left at around noon and didn't get back until about 2am as shopping, cocktails and dinner followed the wine tasting and pie eating on the beautiful farm I visited. When I arrived home, many of the caterpillars had changed as expected, but a few took until the next day.

The following day, once they were safely hanging in chrysalises, I transferred them to the butterfly habitat. It was a long 10 days waiting for them to emerge. I felt as though they would never re-emerge since they had gone from active little caterpillars to motion-less chrysalis's.

But they finally began emerging right on schedule. It was more impressive than I imagined....quite the cool thing. It gave me a feeling of excitement. One by one they emerged and inflated their wings to become the beautiful little creatures that I was hoping for.

I held onto them a couple days past when one is supposed to as I was waiting for the weather to cooperate. I released them in the financial district in front of the Jewish Museum and it was wonderful to watch them fly and float away over a newly blossoming flower patch.

I brought a white piece of card-stock which I placed at the opening of their habitat and filmed them on my iPhone 10s in slow-mo as they quickly flew away. You blink and they are gone.

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