Thursday, March 26, 2009

Other components of butterflies

So on Owain's birthday, an envelope arrived with seven nearly microscopic worms. He named them all "Crunchy Dog" (I try to be supportive). Six weeks later we have two butterflies and two chrysalli from which the Cabbage White Larges could emerge at any second. I have found the whole thing pretty exciting and must confess a thrill when the Crunchy Dogs created their cocoons. An admirable stillness overtook them for days beforehand, and then in less than an hour, they became cocoons.

Everyone loves a butterfly, they are really marketed as a symbol of the triumph of transformative experiences. As people from Corning sang growing up:

Something took that caterpillar as he slept that day
Woke him up and gave him wings and helped him fly away
People too can live in shells afraid of being free
But whatever changed that little worm can change both you and me.

Certainly people dig butterflies for this anthropomorphic point. But now that I have some first-hand lepridopterology experience, I would like to point out some of the dark underside of whatever changed that little worm:

1. Loads of shit. All they eat as caterpillars is cabbage and brussels sprouts and they have deposited about a cup of smelly little poop pellets in the habitat.

2. An eighth of their body: When the caterpillar creates the chrysalis, it digests most of its own body. I can't help but think that hurts. Particularly brutal is when the back centimeter of their body drops off. The floor of the habitat is littered with seven amputated caterpillar asses. Gruesome.

3. Mysterious brown liquid. Which plops out of the chrysalis just before the butterfly emerges. Foul.

4. No inate flying skills: Every time the two butterflies try to fly, they fall like stones to the floor. It's very gentle comedy.

So change - real change - is messy, smelly, painful and humbling. And scary.

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