The philosophy of growing caterpillars

Isn’t it funny how quickly things can change. Only a week or so ago, I was getting excited that our native Dutchman’s Pipe vine was still kicking on in the canopy of our tree, then a couple of large butterflies of both sexes were spotted multiple times. Today, the final part of the puzzle: caterpillars. Lots of them.

We were down inspecting the garden beneath the tree that holds the vine, looking at where I was going to plant some Cardwell lilies when Brad looked up and spotted a caterpillar. I mean, it’s shocking we hadn’t noticed it before that, it was eight centimeters of charcoal coloured eating machine and really impossible to miss once seen.

Now that we’d noticed that one, we realised they were everywhere. Hidden behind leaves, slinking along branches, and some high up in tree, apparent by their distinctive sausagey silhouettes.

There are at least fifteen, some still awake, some just settled in to start their metamorphosis, still looking very much like caterpillars, while others are already in chrysalis form. From past experience, they’ll likely all turn in the next day or so, then we’ll wait for a month.

When we first put our vines in back in 2016, watching these caterpillars grow and transform brought a joy to my day that I could never have expected. Now, five years on, there is a deep satisfaction in me that our little conservation project lives on. The vines have survived the long drought, the flood year, and everything else in between. The butterflies don’t need us to live anymore, they’ve become self-sustaining. We made an actual difference to the birdwing population in our neighbourhood. The difference it’s made to me, though, has perhaps been in greater measure.

Visiting the caterpillar nursery to check on our charges put a bright spot in my day those years ago, and gave me something to look forward to each morning. It’s slow TV at its best, because at the end of that month long wait, there will be a flight of butterflies. This time around, I have the added bonus of five years of delayed gratification to make it all the sweeter.

There are a few lessons I’ve taken from the experience.

  • You can make a difference in your corner of the world. Small changes add to bigger ones.
  • Purpose is whatever you make it. It might be as grand as a life’s mission; it might be as humble as providing a nurturing space for a tiny creature.
  • There is awe in the everyday. When you take the time to notice it, your life will immediately be richer.

Your challenge today is to pay attention to what’s around you. Let an everyday wonder slip into your routine and lay a foundation for a brighter day.

As for me, I’ll be adding another vine or two to the yard, just to be on the safe side.

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