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July 18, 2006

Naturalist

This evening I was in the downstairs family room trying to zip through an episode of one of my favorite shows, so I could move on to reformatting the ReplayTV (more on that later) when Jean came down to ask for my scientific opinion. Good luck with that, eh?

Renee got a Butterfly Canopy kit for her birthday. It's a mesh cylinder habitat. You send away for live caterpillars, which arrived in a box that the Post Office left on our porch in the hot sun a week or so ago. Fortunately the little buggers were still alive. They were in a small plastic jar, the bottom of which was filled with some packed food medium, looking a little like light caramel fudge. They ate like the dickens, grew triple or quadruple their original size, and then began their crysalis stage.

A few days passed, with Renee postponing the transfer of the cocoons to the habitat. Turns out she feared damaging them and killing them. Once we explained that leaving them in the tiny jar was a guarantee of certain death, she got moving. So there I was, watching my show, and Jean wanted help deciding how the transfer was supposed to go. I read the directions, and shared how I thought they were to be interpreted.

Time passes, and Renee comes down with the habitat in hand. Stop the show again, march upstairs. All the survivors of the first stage are transferred to the habitat. Three are dangling from a paper disk which Jean pins to the side of the habitat. A fourth has fallen to the bottom of the jar, but the instructions assure us that if we place it gently on a clean napkin at the bottom of the habitat, it will survive. I am skeptical, but we try it anyway. Funny thing. Jean goes searching for a pair of tweezers (at my suggestion) that she can "sacrifice to science". I tell her she should just pour a little hydrogen peroxide on them after the transfer (thinking silently that all I'd do would be to run a little water over the tweezers, or even just rub 'em on my shirt). But she is apparently squeamish about the idea of "butterfly spit".

I thought we had finalized the project, and I returned to my show. However. It turns out that there was no perfect spot in the house from which to hang the habitat. It must be not-too-hot, not-too-cold, not-too-breezy. So I got enlisted to help find the perfect location. In the end, I suggested the den, where I keep my desktop computer. Said den has the window blocked to prevent glare, so it's perfect for snoozing butterflies. Now I have to be careful where I point the fan, but it's only for a few days. Chances are they'll hatch out while we're up in Seattle. Have to remember to shove some fruit into the habitat before we leave...

Then finally I went downstairs and finished off the show, leading to my next post...

Posted by dpwakefield at July 18, 2006 09:40 PM

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