Trying to raise a misguided butterfly in a stuffed olive jar…

We’ve been exceedingly busy lately.
In an attempt to achieve a lasting balance between all three of my favorite home countries, we’re going to fly back to Austin in a couple of weeks, to allow me to apply for the privilege of a United States Citizenship. While we’re away, we want to rent our home in Costa Rica to those members of the general public, who would love nothing better than to lounge in a cushy chair, trailing their fingers through the cool waves of our lap pool, while sipping a maracuyá refresco, lazily following drifting clouds over the next mountain ridge toward the Pacific ocean’s wave action surfer’s paradise, zip-lineing in the cloud forest, listening to the clanking croak of toucans, with green and black iguanas casting shadows in the sand. 

Close your eyes and dream, while gentle breezes ruffle you hair – it’s as splendid as that!

In order to organize those kinds of tourist pleasures, we had to work hard to get organized. Last night’s composition of the washing machine instruction manual in English and Spanish alone took me till almost one o’clock in the morning. And, in the midst of all this upheaval, I’m trying to raise a misguided butterfly in a stuffed olive jar…

I encountered the animal in question a few days ago in the form of a caterpillar near our front door.   
5th instar caterpillar of a skipper butterfly, Phocides sp., Hesperiidae

Less than 24 hours later the, presumably, same caterpillar had marched straight up the front of our house and had begun to spin like crazy in the vain attempt to fold over our solid wood front door to create a shelter for it’s metamorphosis into a skipper butterfly. We can now either call it an aberration, a pest to be removed, a smudge on the polished surface of my elegant door, or, we may self-consciously reflect on the ever expanding human encroachment on nature’s beauty and ponder our guilt.
Being of a more practical disposition, I again petitioned Dr. Dan Janzen of the renowned Área de Conservation Guanacaste. Since, for some unfathomable reasons,  this kind and patient human being tolerates my many questions, I received instructions forthwith.

I was to snip the silken threads and gently deposit the misguided future skipper in a layer of toilet paper in a cup. Our kitchen is woefully short of specimen cups at present, but we did have this nice and roomy stuffed olive jar, which just begged to be turned into a pupation shelter.


Thankfully, we’re not short on bathroom tissue, so the new cocoon option was soon ready. Time to drag the six-foot-foldable-alu-household-ladder over to the front door, climb those dizzying heights armed with sharp scissors and the stuffed olive jar. Which reminded me of a t-shirt offer, I had seen in a mail order catalog some years ago: ‘runs with scissors’. I always liked that caption, even though I never managed to order the shirt.


Up on my lofty perch, I cut the binding threads and used an index card to loosen the caterpillars grip on the wooden surface. The card also supported the wiggly beast’s weight, so that I didn’t have to actually grab it. Instead I could gently steady it against the card, while maneuvering the animal into the tissue lined jar. The caterpillar seemed quite agitated and I don’t know, if this transfer was beneficial or destructive.

Within the first couple of days there was a lot of fluid loss and, being as uneducated about the lepidopteral life cycle as the next guy, I really don’t know, if we lost the skipper-to-be or if that’s a normal function of pupation. The pupa looks unfinished to me, but we’ll see soon, if the development continues.
Meanwhile I noticed another misguided caterpillar trying to pupate on our concrete gate post. This one really stuck out in the open, completely unprotected, chalky white against the mushroom colored stucco. Not even a fleeting chance to survive that unfortunate location. Within a few hours, only these silken threads remained. Mother Nature practicing ‘tough love’.



3 thoughts on “Trying to raise a misguided butterfly in a stuffed olive jar…

  1. schon erstaunlich, dass beide von irgendwelchen ” eiern ” ausgehen!
    was ist aus deinem experiment geworden? wie entwickelt sich deine liebevoll umsorgte pupa?

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  2. Years ago I was living in the back woods of TN. I also collected eggs but mine were from under the dumpster at a craft school was attending.. Not knowing what these creatures would turn out to be, I got jars and 400 mesh screening from the enameling studio and did some fancy metal work on the lids keeping them snug. Shorty there after I left for a month long trip to New England. Well my roommate was gone traveling when I found these little gems. I left Bob notes about my little saving grace jars and sure enough they all hatched while I was gone… Thousands of tiny, tiny Black Widow spiders swarmed the jars one morning he told me. As luck would have it the fine mesh screening kept them all contained, thankfully. Bob was FREAKED out and very unhappy with me but he did release them by smashing the jars in the woods.. Needles to say, I never did that again.. Thanks for your wonderful story Claudia! Sure wish I could be a tenant too..:))

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  3. I once found these “eggs” in the garage, collected them in a mason jar with punctured lid + a few leaves. After ? days(it wasn't that scientific)the jar was filled with beautiful, large and hungry flies. We fed them to the fish.

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