We had the honor this summer of witnessing one of the most exciting transformations in the world! We watched a mysterious caterpillar become an even more mysterious (and beautiful) butterfly.
My children love fennel. Not bulb fennel (which they greet with apathy) but the herb fennel, which grows in long hairy stalks. They each have their own plant, and they munched on it happily this spring until we told them to stop or they would kill it. Then they came outside one day to find that they had competition: three caterpillars had eaten more than half of my son's plant. We decided to move two of them to my daughter's plant, and bring one inside to watch it transform. We (logically) fed it fennel-- from my daughter's plant, of course. It ate about six inches of fennel stalk a day for a week and then promptly stopped eating. In about five hours (while I was working, unfortunately) it made itself a chrysalis. Then we waited. For about a week and a half. And suddenly, one morning when we looked in the jar, the chrysalis hung empty and the butterfly was there! We had expected a yellow swallowtail (our best guess based on the appearance of the caterpillar) but we were delighted with what came out instead: an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (I think-- if anyone knows otherwise, leave a comment please!) Whatever it was, it was gorgeous and provided our most exciting entertainment this summer! My son was very pleased at how friendly it was when it came out. He is pictured with his great-aunt.