What can I say? I am a bleeding heart for all things living. I can’t help myself. I am the one who stops if a dog appears to be lost or if there is an injured animal needing help. I get the paper cup to save an insect from the sole of a shoe. So, why would I not do the same for a wayward caterpillar?
If you have read my blog post on Mexican Hat Flowers, you will remember I wrote about how lovely the grounds are at my job. Actually, extraordinary is what I should have written. Recently, on one of my walks around the property, I noticed a wayward caterpillar. He was just cruising along the center of the sidewalk in broad daylight. I am not sure what his mission was, considering the sidewalk was flanked on both sides by large, freshly mowed lawns and rows of trees filled with Mockingbirds! Snack time for the birds for sure!
I noticed him from about 20 feet away. At first I thought someone had dropped a piece of candy or some object from their pockets. As I got closer, I realized it was a colorful, orange caterpillar. I thought “guy, you are gonna be someone’s breakfast today if you stay on this bright, white sidewalk!’.
One thing I can say with certainty is it had been a very long time since I had picked up a caterpillar. The sensation was the same, “Oh, yuk, kinda squishy, malleable and OK, weird, and now climbing up my finger!”. I had flashbacks to being a kid and those first experiences with all things creepy crawly. Cool and gross at the same time!
As I walked with my new buddy, I spent my time looking at him very carefully. I mean why not, technically he was now mine. A new pet! And yes, I swear, he was looking at me too! Well, I wanted to believe he was looking at me.
What appeared to be his eyes were really not. Fake eyes, ah ha, a disguise! Although, I must say they appeared to be pretty convincing eyes to me as he rotated his head around. And guess what, it wasn’t his real head either, it was his fake head; another disguise. His real head started at the bottom yellow line where we would think of his mouth being. Believe it or not, that is where his head is, underneath that yellow line. Ah yes, a true master of disguise who complied and patiently posed for a photo.
I loved him! He had perched himself on top of my thumb and yes, I was most certain he was enjoying the free ride. I walked my new pet about 50 yards to the beautiful purple Dahlia garden and dropped him off among the rich green leaves and stems. Of course I was certain no bird would see him among this lush jungle of vegetation and probably a caterpillars dream. Shhhhh, don’t tell the gardeners as I am sure they would flog me as caterpillars are voracious eaters! I will say it gave me great pleasure knowing I probably saved his life; even if for a little while.
When I came back to the office with my photos I knew I had some detective work to do. I needed to know more about my momentary pet. I scoured the internet looking for similar photos of him. When I found the picture it made perfect sense to me. His mission was to become more than just food for the Mockingbirds. He was eventually meant to transform into a Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly!
Now it really made sense! Our buildings front entry is flanked with large, towering glass windows and for the past several weeks we had been seeing beautiful, yellow and black butterflies delicately floating and flitting by. It was exciting to think this character who rode on my finger for mere moments and now saved from certain death by Mockingbird consumption, may actually become one of the gorgeous “Swallowtails” we had been enjoying for weeks prior!
As the days passed by and the Swallowtails continued to grace our windows, I wondered if my little, momentary friend had morphed and become beautiful vision for all to enjoy. Isn’t life amazing?