Caterpillars to Butterflies: A Lesson in Metamorphosis

Caterpillars to Butterflies: A Lesson in Metamorphosis
My 2-year-old examines the butterflies before we release them.

The first time we ordered caterpillars with the intent of studying their metamorphosis, I was almost at the end of my second pregnancy. I ordered them within a day or two of moving into our new home, and they arrived about a week later. It seemed a wonderful way to celebrate the beginning of life in our new house.

We watched the caterpillars crawl around and eat, growing from very small to rather plump and large. We watched as they formed their chrysalides. Then, on the day before our second baby was due to arrive, they began to emerge. We saw one butterfly fluttering around in the net that morning after breakfast. When we returned from the grocery store there was another fluttering about. A couple of hours later, as my labor began (my due date was very accurate), we continued to watch as I labored and breathed and prepared while walking around our house. It felt propitious that my baby was starting his journey into the outside world as these butterflies emerged. And when my beautiful, healthy baby emerged here at home 23 hours later, my [at-the-time] 4-year-old announced that, in addition to his new baby brother, we also had 5 butterflies.

All of this to say, while the emergence of the butterflies is amazing and beautiful in any circumstance, having their re-births tied to the birth of my youngest son made them seem extra special. And the two times we’ve ordered caterpillars since then, both last year and this year, they’ve brought back memories of my own re-birth as a Mother of Two.

Each year since then we’ve reminisced that the first time we watched this portion of the life-cycle of the butterfly, our youngest family member was also preparing for his emergence. In addition to retelling family stories, we’ve also had some wonderful educational discussions about the life-cycle of the butterfly. We’ve checked out every book about caterpillars and butterflies available at our local library. We’ve discussed the importance of pollinators, like butterflies and bees, to our ecosystem, and what we can do to help protect them. We’ve tried to identify other butterflies and moths we’ve seen fluttering about our yard.

We’ve talked about compassion and death. We’ve discussed ethical dilemmas, and how answers aren’t always clear cut. For example, one of our butterflies emerged with a broken wing, and we had to decide whether to release it with the others (likely to be eaten as it couldn’t fly) or to let it die a peaceful death in the net without ever experiencing life outside in nature.

Each year now, we look forward to watching the small miracle of metamorphosis. We learn. We grow. We gain another perspective. We remember that we can all be born again. And we celebrate with the butterflies as we release them into our yard and watch them take wing, fluttering into the sky.

2 thoughts on “Caterpillars to Butterflies: A Lesson in Metamorphosis

  1. Gigi

    I really enjoyed your Butterfly lesson.

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