Wednesday, August 13, 2008


It’s that time of year again. When they dust off the school buses, and the elementary building up the road begins to show signs of life once more.
It is time to go back to school.

I remember first-day jitters and my favorite lunch box. Kickball and the Pledge of Allegiance. And of course, hoping my desk would be close enough to the window ledge to be able to watch the caterpillars in glass boxes.
There were always caterpillars on the first day of school.

I found a small Black Swallowtail caterpillar on Queen Anne’s Lace in the field, recently hatched and still wearing his white saddle. Days later his plump green body nibbled hungrily beneath another umbel--the changes already beginning.

I snipped several stems of his favorite and carried them with me, home. A small glass vase keeps them fresh, as he eats and eats …and eats on our kitchen table.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar tethered to Ironweed

A day of stillness brings another change.

This time, his lovely chrysalis tethered by thin silken strands where his striped body hung the night before, as a newly furled leaf along the stem.

Shed caterpillar skin like a bunched up sock beneath him.
Faint lines upon green, trace the life changing within.

I see wings and eyes on a butterfly’s face.

Metamorphosis, a beautiful form evolving from behind the thinnest curtain, a child’s lesson never old.
A wonder of life to witness, each time, new.

Black Swallowtail chrysalis on Ironweed

Click photos to enlarge
Can you see his face and wings?

Shed skin showing head capsule

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Lynne said...

I don't think most people would think to bring in flowers for the table complete with living creature to watch. That was a lovely series with beautiful words.

Nina- you really need to think of publishing some of these posts.

bobbie said...

Beautiful as always, Nina. I wish we had had caterpillars in school.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! I want to show my kids this post. They'll love it.

Cicero Sings said...

The whole process/transformation is so amazing. What a grand series of pictures depicting the changes.

Nydia said...

I'll definitely show this to Lucas, he'll love following up the series! :o)
A great post for D!

Kisses from Nydia.

dguzman said...

Beautiful, Nina. You're truly a wondrous creature yourself.

Rambling Woods said...

We have lots of those plants across the pond. I will have to go and take a look. This is amazing..

NCmountainwoman said...

This was even better than watching the caterpillar in a glass. Too much waiting. Thanks for being so patient and catching these lovely photographs. And for sharing them with us.

Mary said...

Nina, I was one of those daydreamers, too. Wanting to be seated next to the window...while the sun melted my cheese sandwich in a bag under my desk. Lovely memories. Metamorphosis, every year.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful photos! And such a wonderful memory of school time!

Ruth said...

Great set of photos. I do not recall seeing a Swallowtail chrysalis. I will be looking...

Eco Enthusiast said...

Your photos really inspire to get out and look more closely for caterpillars! I haven't seen the ironweed yet but will look for caterpillars once I spot it. Thanks for a great post.

Greg said...

Incredible. Isn't nature the best?!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This post reminds me of how sad I have felt about not finding any black swallowtail caterpillars on our bronze fennel. It truly saddens me. I have wondered if the spraying for mosquitoes by the city around here has affected the butterflies. We don't seem to get as many as we used to. Sigh~

Kristin L said...

Beautiful! We've been watching a similar change at our house.

The Adventures of Barry said...

Hello I'm Barry and I found some very small white eggs on a lilac bush , so I kept them in a jar and they hatched.Inside them were very small white caterpillars with black hair.I could not figure out what kind of caterpillars they are, I thought you could help, thanks in advance,