On the Drama of Butterflies

Eric Hunter
5 min readJul 16, 2020

On the recommendation of a friend, Masha purchased an Insect Lore Butterfly Growing Kit for the kids. One voucher later, a cup arrived in the mail containing five Painted Lady caterpillars and a disk of what looked like brown sugar that was to be their food source for the next week. Our first pets! The kids were suitably interested, but all of our fascination grew as they quadrupled in size over a mere three or four days; turns out The Very Hungry Caterpillar used less artistic license than I thought. We spent a morbid few days wondering if they were eating each other, as we questioned what those poopy things in the bottom of the cup were (turns out they were shedding their exoskeletons, of course), and in no time they were already tightly bound up within their chrysalides.

It had been about three days and the chrysalides were looking rather parched and and weathered, and I was wondering if maybe we were going to be out of luck. Then one morning we woke up and discovered that one of the Ladys had emerged during the night. Well, it could have been a lady. There were two males and two females, and I’m no expert on butterfly genitalia. It was surprisingly beautiful, like a miniature Monarch, and having not been a kid for some decades I think Masha and I both marveled at how this exquisite and intricate organism could have evolved from a grubby thing in such a short span of time.

After a while another of the chrysalides began to jiggle, and a second butterfly started to peek through the bottom. We got excited and gathered round, thinking this time we would witness in the miracle in real time. But perhaps our excitement and nervous energy (to put it mildly — Ollie was pretty much screaming right into the habitat) was too much for it, as it seemed to get shy and abandon the effort. Periodically throughout the day we would check on it, and although it made a little progress, we couldn’t see more than its eyes and a couple feelers.

Later that afternoon Masha and Sebastian got a shock when the butterfly that had come out first appeared to explode right in front of them. Actually it had expelled a blood-like substance, and upon further googling we discovered that it’s a natural process, like the passing of placenta or meconium. But it left a gory stain on the side of the net, and I think Masha was mildly traumatized. I was fortunately…