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Essays : Buttercup

by Marie, age 6

B u t t e r c u p !

We first met when she emerged from
her chrysalis. I looked in her eyes.
I touched her wings. They were like velvet!
I loved all her colors -- black and orange, white
and yellow. Yellow like butter...I'll call her Buttercup!

I looked at her legs. Her cute claws and sooo
long legs. I looked at her tongue--it uncurled
and she drank sugar-water from the pink
sponge!
Buttercup stayed with us for the whole month of
September. I grew to love her very much.
Then we had to go on a trip. All the way to
Washington, D.C. What do we do with
Buttercup?
I asked Mommy.
"Can we take Buttercup with us?"

"That's a great idea! It's getting colder anyway,
so maybe we can let her go down there where
it's a little warmer. What do you think?"
I said, "Yes!"
That made me feel much better.
We drove four hours. Buttercup sat on my seat
and then I put her on my shoulder. We both fell
asleep.
When we got to Washington Buttercup met lots
of new friends in the elevator up to our room.
Then she slept while we went to the
Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.
The next day I wish we could have taken her to
the Air and Space Museum. She would have
liked it there, too.
Then we had to go home. I told Mom it was too
hard to let her go here. So we all went home
together in the car.
The next day I had to let her go. I put her on
my hand and held it up high. She flew up on
the roof of our house.

We watched her sit there for awhile Then we
went inside. We came back about an hour later
and she was still there. I think she liked it
there.
A little later we came back and she was gone.
I hope she made it all the way to Mexico.


This story is the result of a wonderful experience my daughters and I had at the Pennsylvania State University Bug Fair last Fall [1996].

Just outside the Entomology Building where the fair was held we stopped at a booth where miracles were happening. Within a few minutes silence swept over the crowd of about ten people as we all watched a monarch butterfly emerge from its chrysalis. It was pure magic for the kids (adults, too!) From that point my daughter, Marie, decided to have her own butterfly friend at home.

Jerry Zeidler, who headed up the exhibit, explained how he and many other people were members of MONARCH WATCH! This is a collaborative network of students, teachers, volunteers and researchers investigating the Monarch butterfly migration phenomenon and its biology. Part of the program, initiated by the University of Kansas Department of Entomology, is tagging migrating monarch butterflies and rearing mature larvae (caterpillars). We decided to attempt both.

Within weeks we were trying very hard to tag hundreds of butterflies over the farm and raising 8 beautiful larvae. As soon as we woke up in the morning the first thing we did was check out the caterpillars! It was such a thrill when the larvae spun a little silk button to hang on to and then started to harden into a pupa or chrysalis (it was pale green with the brightest gold dots!)

And then one day...one day the chrysalis turned clearer and clearer until the curled up butterfly we saw within opened its door into our world! What a sight! Day after day our butterflies emerged, some vigorous enough to take off on their own; others needing a little more tender loving care. One of those which needed a little extra help turned out to be Buttercup The magic of Buttercup in our lives was contagious. How something so fragile, so beautiful, so trusting could be here for us to see and wake up to was beyond imagination My six-year-old daughter learned in just a few short weeks how to love from this little friend.

There are lots of ways to get involved, from supporting butterfly research to being part of the magic. There are numerous books available, too. We found Kathryn Lasky's MONARCHS particularly helpful, detailing the development and migration of the butterflies as well as checking out some of the wintering locations in California and Mexico where we pray our monarch friends were able to return, rejuvenate and regenerate themselves to return to the farm this summer. We are reminded of their fragile status in our world from other books like Lynn Stone's THE REMARKABLE FLIGHT OF THE MONARCHS and Bianca Lavies' MONARCH BUTTERFLIES, MYSTERIOUS TRAVELERS. Gail Gibbons' MONARCH BUTTERFLY and Kim Taylor's SEE HOW THEY GROW BUTTERFLY are also two excellent books to explore for detailed accounts of butterflying. Try not to miss this adventure with your child. You will be delighted to have such a heart-warming experience to share the rest of your lives!

Happy Butterflying!

Marie and Emily and Mommy Baker

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