August 13, 2010

"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."

~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Recently, four of these odd-looking structures appeared in our pool cage. My son first drew our attention to them, when they were still moving about, choosing a place to rest until metamorphosis. They eventually scattered themselves across the back of the screen enclosure, and one made its brave way over to a plastic Adirondack chair in the back corner.

Now I know what happened to my basil plant—at least I think these guys were responsible. I don’t begrudge them their meals, but I’m eager to see what will come out of these cocoons. Does anyone know? The caterpillars were already completely encased in their spiny shells when we found them. So far they have weathered our summer storms and withering heat, and I’m not sure how long it takes for a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly—or could it be a moth?

I’ll keep you posted.

"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough."
~Rabindranath Tagore

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  1. I have no idea what that is, Kathy. I even tried looking it up for you -- nope, still in the dark. :(

    It's a fascinating cocoon, though, & must be fun to watch the process up close. I have never been able to watch cocoons too closely myself -- knowing a bit about what goes on in there, they sort of freak me out!

  2. A mystery!! What fun! I have no idea but am quite curious. The cocoons like a bit like a pinecone at a quick glance!

  3. Meredith--I know what you mean...I don't really want to see what's happening inside there!

  4. Laure--I've never seen a cocoon that was covered in plant material before--only the smooth, silk-y ones. I hope we get to see a new creature come out of there.

  5. Kathy, It looks like a moth or even a caddisfly type of insect from the "bag-lady" nature of the cocoon. Most butterflies construct their cocoon out of silky material, and don't add bits of detritus to camouflage it like that. I'm dubious about whether they're what ails your basil--the plants make those aromatic compounds that give them their yummy flavor for us in order to keep insect grazers from munching them. I'll be interested to know what metamorphoses from those very inventive cocoons!

  6. Thanks for the information, Susan. I've never seen a cocoon that looks like this, either, and to suddenly have five of them (I found another, smaller one yesterday) seems remarkable. Hmm, so something else has decimated the basil, eh? I'll have to keep a closer eye out there.