“Kay’s new pet”
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I don’t care to have a pet. Pet owning carries with it responsibility. I don’t like responsibility any more than I like a challenge. Those are two words you toss around at a job interview, not in real life.
Kay would enjoy the challenge and responsibility of owning a pet… say a dog. And, there is little doubt that she’d be the best dog owner on the planet, next to Bob Barker. Fortunately, Kay honors my wish to own no animals. And, she will honor that up until the moment of my passing. I have every confidence that at my funeral Kay will be carrying a purse with a Yorkie in it. -- And I’m good with that.
However, until that day, I hoped to remain petless. So, you can imagine the shock I had last week when Kay yelled for me to come to the kitchen to see her new pet. She so much wanted to surprise me, knowing that I’m one of 18 people on the planet who do not enjoy surprises. I need time to prepare for stuff. Good? Bad? It doesn’t matter. Just give me a moment. A couple of days, maybe.
I didn’t hurry to the kitchen. I viewed the surprise with as much enthusiasm as I would news that there was a puddle under the fridge. When I saw Kay, she was looking over the sink at a couple of plants she had set on the windowsill. Now my dread was on the wane.
Kay pointed at one of the leaves and told me to lean over and take a look at “him”. All right. Kay had apparently adopted a pot plant for a pet. And it was a male plant. Instantly I recalled the oath I took. -- In sickness and insanity. – Yes, I would play along with her little charade.
“He’s right there on the leaf. See?” Sure enough. There he was. A worm. A little worm. I assured Kay that I was cool with her raising a worm as a pet, as long as it was an outdoor pet. Kay informed me that it wasn’t a worm. It was a caterpillar. An indoor caterpillar.
Okay, I’ll give you the short version. -- The plants in the window were milkweeds. Kay’s friend Shannon had given ‘em to her so she could eventually plant them in the yard to attract monarch butterflies.
Monarch butterflies seem to be in a bad way. The numbers are way down, and Kay wanted to join Shannon in an attempt to increase the population of the critters. Turns out one of the plants Kay brought home already had a tiny caterpillar on it. And there it was eating the milkweed before it could even take root.
That was a week or so back. Now, after eating every last bit of milkweed, the caterpillar is huge. (Two inches is huge in caterpillar length. Same with snakes.) Kay moved the remaining bare plant stems to a table in the dining room and put one of our collapsible, finely-meshed clothes baskets over it. Before you showed up, I noticed that big worm had climbed to the roof of the basket. That’s where you go after eating everything in the house.
The caterpillar will soon make a silk wrote to suspend itself from its perch. Next stage will be the cocoon or chrysalis. About two weeks from now we should find a butterfly in that basket. And, I’ve just got to tell you, I’m going to be as excited as Kay when it happens. I’m not saying this hasn’t been a challenge. That caterpillar has pooped milkweed droppings all over the place. And, it’s been no easy task replenishing the milkweed.
Do you know who sells milkweed? China. I suppose. Shannon’s got some, but her supply has dwindled considerably. Those bubbas do nothing but eat and defecate. And, if you put ‘em on any other plant but milkweed, they’ll die. They only eat milkweed.
Milkweed? What’s the draw? Pandas live on bamboo and koalas eat only eucalyptus. Do you know why Pandas and Koalas are among the endangered species? They’re picky eaters! Do you know why there are so many goats in this world? They’ll eat anything. Phonebooks, distributor caps, recyclable plastic bottles… a steering wheel if they can find one.
If Monarch caterpillars would just try something else, we could stop all this milkweed nonsense. Loco weed, rosebushes, ferns, clover, pine cones, oak bark… We wouldn’t have to worry about how few butterflies show up in Mexico this October, if only Monarchs would try eating a variety of food.
Those bubbas have been migrating back and forth from Canada and Mexico living only on milkweed. Don’t get me wrong, the adult butterfly gets stuff out of all kinds of flower blooms, but the female will only lay eggs on milkweed. One egg per plant, so the little baby caterpillar will have plenty to eat when it hatches. Remember the two things they do exclusively? Do you?
So, between now and fall, we need to attract more Monarchs to our yards. By “we” and “our” I’m referring to you. One of you needs to start a Monarch Butterfly Club. I would, but it’s too much of a challenge. However, if you’ll start a club, I’ll make a meeting or two. Just don’t make me responsible for anything.
I will tell you this, as soon as Kay’s project takes off, we’re not going to have indoor caterpillar pets. All the milkweed is going to be in the yard. They can eat and relieve themselves all they want out there. But, in the kitchen over the sink? – Repeat after me – “In sickness and insanity.”
|12 days after Chrysalis stage|