Willow

Three weeks ago, Lil came home from science camp with a teeny surprise for the family.  What appeared to be a little speck sitting on milkweed leaves transformed into a tiny little caterpillar with a giant appetite. Lil named her, Willow.  For the next two weeks, Willow ate and ate and ate milkweed leaves.

Meet Tiny Willow!

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Photo by: CMBanerjee

Growing Willow

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Photo by: CMBanerjee

Look who’s hungry and number 2 😉

WillowPoo
Photo by: CMBanerjee

Strong Climber

WillowClimb
Photo by: CMBanerjee

C is for Caterpillar

WillowCaterpillar
Photo by: CMBanerjee

On the fourteenth day, Willow’s appetite changed.  She ate less and started to work her way up the cheesecloth that was covering her temporary home (1 gallon aquarium). Here’s Willow finding a cozy spot on the cheesecloth for her chrysalis.

WillowHang
Photo by: CMBanerjee
WillowNet
Photo by: CMBanerjee

Willow hanging out and getting ready to shed her skin. Overnight, she wrapped herself into this beautiful light green chrysalis.  The next six days, we watched the subtle changes occur like gold specks on the outside of her chrysalis. On the 23rd day, we saw the outline of her wings forming from within.

Willowcollage
Photo by: CMBanerjee
WillowChrysalis
Notice the running stitch at the top of Chrysalis. Photo by: CMBanerjee

While we were sleeping, Willow emerged from her chrysalis.  Lil was the first to see Willow as a butterfly. She initially clung to the shell of her chrysalis and slowly started walking and stretching out her wings.

WillowOut
Photo by: CMBanerjee
WillowOut2
Photo by: CMBanerjee

Here’s Willow letting go of her chrysalis’ shell. The girls couldn’t believe how she fit in such a small place (about an inch long).  When her wings were completely extended she was 3x the size of the chrysalis.

WillowOutthree
Photo by: CMBanerjee

The girls had mixed emotions about letting Willow go. Emmy was especially sad because she was so accustomed to watching Willow as a caterpillar everyday.  She didn’t quite understand why we couldn’t keep Willow like our pet dog and fishes.  With the help of the “Angelina and the Butterfly” book, Emmy was able to understand that Willow would be happier living in the outdoors.

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Before lunch, the family and I decided it was time to release Willow.  My husband armed with our Canon camera was ready to document this very special moment.  The girls and I took our places around a pot of yellow mums.  We carefully took Willow out of the aquarium.  She was still clinging on the cheesecloth.  What unfolded next was magical in our eyes.  She tentatively set foot on the yellow mums.  My husband was clicking away.  I could hear Emmy say, “Can I touch her?!” and then complete silence occurred as Willow began to gracefully beat her wings.  In a split second, her feet lightly touched all three of our hands. A gentle gesture of her saying thank you and goodbye.  Before we could even say bye, she quickly fluttered her wings and flew up to the skies.

Emmy burst into tears and said, “She’s gone!”  Lil and my husband quickly spotted Willow resting on some leaves on a nearby tree.  We watched Willow as my husband snapped more photos.  When he checked to review photos, the camera screen was flashing “no memory card”.   No memory card???!!!!!  Thank goodness, I had my IPhone and was able to take a couple pictures prior to her taking flight.

WillowRelease1
Getting ready for take off. Photo by: CMBanerjee
Willow's beautiful wings. Photo by: CMBanerjee
Willow’s beautiful wings. Photo by: CMBanerjee

My husband quickly loaded the memory card in our camera and we were able to take some photos of Willow on the tree branch.

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My favorite hummingbird was also sitting on a tree branch nearby watching all the commotion below.

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The whole experience of raising a caterpillar into a butterfly and setting it free has been a fun and rewarding experience for the family and I.  For a little over three weeks, we took on the role of caretaker to this beautiful creature and were her captive audience.  She amused and entertained us with her insatiable appetite, intrigued us with her elusiveness, mesmerized us with her amazing reveal as a butterfly, and taught us the beauty of enjoying every moment as it comes.

Now we’re busy tending to our milkweed plant. We’re hoping it will attract Willow back and visit us possibly soon with a few of her butterfly friends. Here’s to living and enjoying our moments! Soar high Willow!

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