18 Aug

It’s Crafturday! (12)

Softie Butterfly and Pom-pom Egg

This one is a sort of a replay. My and my daughter’s Metamorphosis project was featured on Caterpillar Eyespots on August 16th.

I’m flattered that a real scientist would be interested in my craft project, and I think that Thomas did a lovely job of connecting my softies to real live caterpillars and highlighted the educational potential. I thoroughly enjoyed making that project and love that someone else appreciates it too.

19 Jul

The Caterpillar Files


In the ongoing caterpillar saga (chapters one, two, three,  four, five, and six, if anyone is interested) we learned yet another interesting metamorphosis fact. To get from poopy to green, our Chinese Swallowtails don’t change colors, they shed. Cool, huh?!


Since the butterfly in March (chapter six) our little mandarin orange tree has hosted at least a half dozen “babies,” one of which made it all the way to butterfly in June– although, once again, I missed the actual emergence. As of last week, we’ve had two more caterpillars which made it to instar status and then disappeared. We found one on the ground, and with the help of a leaf, gently replaced it on the tree. Later, we found it on a chair leg. Again, we helped it back to the tree. The next day it was back on the chair, so I let it be, thinking it might like that location for it’s next transformation. But then it moved to the architectural column at the corner of our lanai. By now it hadn’t eaten in nearly three days and was still a day or two short of time to change into a chrysalis (according to the other two we watched). I decided that this caterpillar must have a death wish and with lizards and ants all around, I figured it had just as much of a chance in our new bug box as it did on it’s own on the lanai.

Later in the day, the other escapee reappeared on the lawn, mortally wounded. Could have been a lizard, I could have stepped on it, or maybe the kids did , or even the gardener who was here today. The caterpillar to butterfly ratio is not in the butterfly’s favor, but it does appear that they try year round, so that’s got to count for something. Already, there’s another bitty caterpillar giving life a try in the tree.

10 Mar

It’s Beautiful!

18 days ago, our caterpillar shed it’s skin and became a chrysalis. The next day, the chrysalis had smoothed out to look like this:

The weather turned cool and rainy and I read that caterpillars/butterflies can overwinter in pupa or chrysalis stage, so I resigned myself for a possible long wait. But then the last two days have been warm. After my walk this morning, I went out to look at the chrysalis and it had changed color.

I wasn’t sure if this was because it was camouflaging itself against the now fuller coleus plant, if it was a dud, or if it was about to hatch. I’d heard the hatching happens relatively quickly, but figured on an hour or two. I went in the house to read my email and when I returned a half hour later, look who had emerged:

I’m sad to have missed the actual “birth” of the butterfly, but I am overjoyed that it made it through it’s complete cycle and once again, nature has worked her magic. I sat impatiently for the butterfly to warm up it’s wings — which was infinitely longer than it took to emerge from it’s cocoon. It flitted to a few sunny spots to warm up some more (not helped by me chasing it with the camera) and then flew off.

Now all that’s left is the empty shell:

21 Feb

“It’s Chrysalising!” (said my son)

For anyone still anxiously awaiting caterpillar news, it’s good! I’ve been keeping a close watch on the last caterpillar standing. I’ve noticed interesting behavior too. You’d probably expect a caterpillar to just go randomly about a tree munching anything in it’s path. Nope. Ours seems to have found a favorite leaf to call home (large and relatively sheltered from sun and wind) and then it goes out on food forays, systematically eating all the leaves on a branch. Once satiated each day, it returns to the home leaf for a rest before venturing out again for the next leaf on the branch. Here’s how it looked shortly after I last blogged:

Yesterday, I noticed that it had left it’s home leaf, but instead of heading out for a bite to eat, it worked it’s way down the tree and onto the stem of a ceramic flower I had “planted” in the pot.

Since it had turned from poopy to green in less than four hours, I expected this change to happen rather quick too and watched closely. Over the course of the day, it seemed to compress. It also spit up a little silk sling to hold itself in place, and “let go” of the wire stalk.

And that was it. Instead of a chrysalis this morning, it looked just the same. I admit I was disappointed. However, I think it’s metamorphosis may be temperature dependent. As a sort of aside, my son mentioned this morning that caterpillars have the chrysalis inside them and must shed their outer skin to expose it. Hmmm. I’m not sure where he learned that, but when we returned from shopping mid-day (and the yard was nice and sunny), the caterpillar was wriggling wildly and indeed seemed to be pushing something down it’s body. We were witness to the last bit:

And something definitely did drop off the end of the chrysalis:

And now we have a beautiful, still, chrysalis which will hopefully become an equally beautiful butterfly.

To be continued…

11 Feb

Seven Blogs in One!

I’ve looked back on my recent entries and see that there is very little art quilting/creative journey posting going on here. Of course, life in general is part of the creative journey, so think of this as quilting/artful life/cute crafting/travelogue/food/cute grandkids/botany blogs all rolled into one.

Today is “Bug Blog Day.”

The chrysalis still hasn’t “hatched,” and I’m doubting it ever will. We did however find three more small caterpillars and two eggs on the tree.

Over the course of a few days the eggs hatched and we saw one teensy teensy caterpillar. Unfortunately, of those five, only one remains. I guess birds or other bugs have to eat too. I decided I needed to intervene and make the whole tree into a caterpillar box with some tulle yardage I had. It looks like this now (note blooms sticking out to encourage more butterflies):

My fingers are crossed that this last caterpillar makes it to butterfly stage. I did see three different types of butterfly pass through our yard this morning, so prospects are good.

12 Jan


One of the reasons we wanted to post about our caterpillars is because we were inspired to make a softie version of the metamorphosis. We’ve taken quite a few creative liberties, but it’s essentially the life cycle of a Chinese Yellow, or Citrus, Swallowtail.

We started with our “baby,” the first through third stages (instars) of the swallowtail: the bird poop caterpillar. This stuffed version features a brown and white fabric, ruched to accentuate the caterpillar’s texture.

The quick-change artist then gets zipped into a lined pouch…

…to become the fourth instar: the chunky green version. I added the osmeterium (yellow-orange scent glands) later as it seemed like it could use a little jazzing up. I love how the functional zipper mimics the actual patterning on the real caterpillar. I really love that it was my daughter’s idea and not mine.

Next, the caterpillar(s) get put into the chrysalis purse and…

…out comes a beautiful butterfly! The butterfly has a pouch on her underbelly for a pom-pom egg so that the cycle can begin again.

The chrysalis purse isn’t quite as graceful or poofy on top as I was hoping for, but I do really like it’s quilted bottom section. Poopy should have a bigger head and Instar Four could be a little more detailed on his back, but really, we’ve been having great fun playing with this — and that’s what matters most!