Five Green Acres Mary Jo + Andrew Borchardt fivegreenacres@gmail.com Poynette, WI
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Is there an entomologist in the house?

Is there an entomologist in the house?
August 21, 2008 Mary Jo

We’re expecting. A butterfly, a moth? We’re not at all sure, but I think we’re about to find out soon. This chrysalis, which has been in a jar in our kitchen for weeks now, feels much lighter in weight than the last time I handled it. What magic! The metaphor of transformation is a powerful one, indeed, and right in our kitchen!

I had such grand intentions of hosting a monarch chrysalis to illustrate the process of metamorphosis for Isadora. Not having witnessed the experiment myself since first grade, I failed to realize that our milkweed plants weren’t going to be brimming with chrysalises that I could pluck and put in a jar. It seems I missed the window of opportunity when I chose to photograph the one monarch caterpillar I did see instead of inviting him to an all-inclusive, all-you-can-eat stay in our Mason jar suite. Oh well – we hope to have many years, many seasons here to fit in all of the magical projects flitting about my mind.

Resigned to exploring more next year, I was thrilled when Isadora came running to me with this cocoon in her hand. She’d found it on the underside of her water table (a raised plastic tub to fill with water and while away hours…) She’d recognized it as a cocoon, sure enough, and led me to the spot where she found it.

This abandoned overcoat was all that remained. It seems the caterpillar shed an extra layer before bundling up – the inside is hollow and looks more like an exoskeleton than an entire caterpillar.

So these are the clues. The caterpillar was apparently a very hairy one. The cocoon is also a bit hairy, as you can see. Does anyone have the slightest idea what kind of winged creature we can expect to pop out? Anyone? I’d hate to be fostering a villainous pest like a gypsy moth…

Also of concern – it was yanked from the sinuous threads that held it suspended vertically under the water table, so it’s without anything to keep it upright in the jar. I try to keep it propped up, to respect any equilibrium requirements there may be, but it inevitably ends up resting horizontally on the bottom of the jar. Should I try harder, or does it not matter so much?

In a lovely continuation of our theme, Isadora unearthed this spent cocoon just last week, while digging in her “sandbox” (read: a 2 ft. diameter patch of sand under our Grandma Maple tree) :

It’s very wood-like, so much so that it seemed unlikely a cocoon, but the shape and marks look like they could be nothing else. Any ideas on this one?

I mean to keep all you budding entomologists busy today with these questions…

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