Raising Monarchs: End of Act I

I left you last with my feeling of triumph at getting a caterpillar to chrysalis, despite a few losses (if you would like to read from the beginning start here, if you want the installment just prior, it’s here). But of course, the butterfly gods sensed my jubilation. Said gods sent their minions to bring me down a notch in the form of kittens who, after almost a MONTH of it being in the same place, spied the monarch habitat and thought it a fantastic place to romp.

I came home from an errand to find the habitat on the ground, squished. The chrysalis was knocked down but thankfully undamaged, but the two remaining caterpillars looked a little worse for wear. I used some tape and a pin to set the chrysalis back to its place on the habitat ceiling. The caterpillars seemed lethargic, but I held out hope.

Chrysalis back in business.

The next day, the first caterpillar had fallen off its leaf and darkened, obviously dying. I euthanized it in a paper towel, whispering sorry and glaring daggers at the feline perpetrators. The other caterpillar hung on for another few days before it, too, succumbed to its injuries. I was verklempt. In just a week, I had gone from nurturing a veritable brood of caterpillars to having a single chrysalis to hang my hopes on.

I hid the habitat from view but still in the sun (as mentioned before, butterflies are essentially solar-powered). We waited for the chrysalis to mature, and sure enough 20-some days later the chrysalis started to become translucent and we could see the orange and black butterfly within.

So close!

I may have become *slightly* obsessed. I took pictures and compared them to pictures taken 12 hours prior to see if I could detect any additional changes. I waited and waited and waited some more, and then went to the grocery store so my family could eat I guess. And again, sneakypants insect because I came back to a BUTTERFLY!


The butterfly was gorgeous! It eclosed (fancy scientist speak for coming out of its chrysalis) in mid-afternoon, so it would need to spend the night inside to make sure its wings were dry enough to fly.

Which was its doom. *cries*

The next day, I take my daughter to school, hiding the habitat behind some barricades to keep it hidden from The Kittens. I come back to every object, habitat and all barricades, scattered on the floor. The butterfly was alive, but obviously injured. I took it outside to bathe in the healing rays of the sun, but it was too late.

C’mon sun, I need a miracle!

I was so sad. Like, I-lost-a-dear-pet sad. I felt like a failure and a monster. And I still had to break the news to my daughter.

She took it better than I expected. She was sad, but not bereft. She carefully held the butterfly while I dug a small, deep hole in a sunny place in our garden to lay it to rest. I said thank you to the butterfly and sorry. I resolved to do better next time. My daughter covered the fragile, inert body with dirt, patting the surface gently while she sniffled.

And then promptly asked if she could dig it up to look at it again. Because, four-year-old.

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