The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Little Time In The Butterfly House

     Yesterday, David and I spent the morning in Hershey Gardens.  Even though the roses are fragrant and colorful, the trees and shade plants lovingly cared for and the herb garden makes us feel as if we're in a British novel, the real draw is the Butterfly House! 
     Entering the House is a little like going into the Biosphere--you need to spend some time in the anti-chamber, making sure the door closes behind you, before you can open the door into the space.  That's to insure that butterflies don't head out into the wild.  Once inside, it's tent-warm and moist.  
     On cooler days, the butterflies head for the ceiling.  When it's hot, they migrate to the brick floor and the undersides of leaves.  
     Yesterday, they were everywhere!  Just when you think one is going to crash into your face or body, it gently veers away, almost as an afterthought.  It floats by, and then another comes into your peripheral vision, and does land on your head or on your shoulder.  I don't know why I feel as if I have to freeze when this happens, but I even hold my breath.

     Below is a photograph of the nursery, where all the overnight UPS ed chrysalises hang out until the butterfly is ready to "hatch".  Each chrysalis has a date and is hung in its appropriate row.  For those of us who find this a little too organized, there is a row of question marks--no one knows who will emerge--if I was a butterfly, this is where I would chill until it's time to fly.  The Question Mark Zone.

     The butterfly below with his wings spread, hatched out of his chrysalis about an hour before we took his photograph.  Gaining strength, he grew about three times his original size, by pumping protein from his body into his wings.  
     Once he was finished growing, and his wings were completely dry, he climbed up to the top of the box, hung upside down for a few seconds, then took flight!  I was so excited, I yelled, "Go, Go, Go Little Butterfly!" and generally acted like a cheerleader.  If my children had been with me, they would have been embarrassed.  But it is the butterfly's maiden voyage!  I've acted the fool for much less.
     The butterfly on the right, still folded and growing, was only moments away from his maiden voyage too.

     Most chrysalises have a bit of sparkle on them.  On the Monarch, for example, there is a thin gold thread that circles the celadon green pod.  It's really striking, like a gold bangle.  On other chrysalis, there are copper or silver dots that decorate vertically.  
     We were told that when a chrysalis loses it's glitter, it's a sign that the butterfly will not hatch.  So the glitter is like a visual heartbeat or pulse--it means the pupa is healthy.
     The butterfly whose maiden voyage we witnessed yesterday will live for about 2 weeks.   If it's a female, her eggs will be fertilized by a male.  She will lay eggs on whatever plant her caterpillars require for nourishment.  They in turn, will eat and eat and eat until they climb into a soft leave and spin it around themselves for protection.  Or they may hang from whatever is handy, creating their own protection.  In the case of the Monarch, it takes about 12 days to transform from a caterpillar into a chrysalis, and there will be plenty of skin shedding before the sturdy shell is created.  Just before its birth, the chrysalis will become transparent to expose the colors of the butterfly within.
     Then it all starts again!

     Totally worth the trip!

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