Little Six Legs by Sheila Buchanan Buell Chapter 4 Monarch Butterfly

Busy Watches Cousin Butterfly Grow Up

       One day after a big thunderstorm, the children could not find their little black ant, Busy.  There were many little ants but not one of them seemed to have the little red spot of paint on her back.  Cathleen said that the rain must have washed off the red paint.

       “Oh, no!” called Marjorie and Bruce, while they stood by a milkweed plant.  “Come quick, Cathleen! Here she is, climbing up the milkweed, and she still has the red spot on her back.”

       Busy was all right.  On the way up the milkweed, she stopped to look at a little yellow spot under a leaf.  She was going to touch the small yellow spot.

       “Please, please,” communicated a little vibration above her. “Please do not touch that little yellow egg.  I am the mother monarch butterfly.  I laid that egg there.”

       “Oh, I will not touch it then.  Will a Monarch butterfly come out of that egg?” asked Busy.

       “You watch and see.  I must go and lay more eggs,” said the Monarch butterfly, as she uncoiled her long tongue to get some honey out of the milkweed blossom.  Then she flew away with her pretty orange-and-black wings.

       Busy watched and watched the little yellow egg for many days. Then, one day the top of the egg moved a little.  Then Pop! The egg was hatching.  Out crawled a wee light green caterpillar. She ate up the eggshell.  Then she ate, and ate, and ate the milkweed leaves.  How fat she grew!  Soon she was so fat that she did not care to move anymore.

       “Maybe she is asleep,” thought Busy Black Ant.

Then Busy saw the skin on the caterpillar’s back open up a little bit.  More, and still more it opened up.  The caterpillar’s skin began to open up down his back.

“Oh! She must be going to change into a butterfly like the nymph changed into a dragonfly,” thought Busy.

       But no!  She was just changing her suit.  The monarch caterpillar had a nice new suit with yellow, black and white bands around it.  She had two black horns near her head, to wave around and two near the end of her long body. And then she ate up her faded green suit.  

Then she went right on eating, and eating the milkweed again.  Busy thought she was quite a pig.  Each time she grew too big and fat, she just slipped out of her old suit.  And there she was in her new suit with brighter yellow, black and white bands around it.

       Then it rained and rained for many days.  And it was quite cold.  So Busy Black Ant kept house under a dry leaf.  She could not go to watch the caterpillar.  The two little girls and little boy had to stay in the house too.  Then the rained stopped and it was warm again.  Busy Black Ant hurried back to the milkweed.  The children followed her.

Busy Black Ant got such a surprise that she nearly fell of the leaf.  How big the monarch caterpillar was now! 

She went under a leaf and stopped eating.  She was moving her head back and forth, back and forth.  But she was not eating.  What was she doing?

       Why, she is spinning a tuft of white silk.  When she stopped spinning the tuft of silk, she took hold of it with the little edge of her head.  Then the caterpillar let go with her front feet.  And there she was, swinging in the air with her head down.  Busy Black Ant got so excited watching the caterpillar that she nearly fell off the leaf again.  She was sure she was going to turn into a Monarch butterfly this time.

       The caterpillar worked very slowly and carefully now.  Little by little her suit slipped off once more.  

     She could not be seen, but she was not a butterfly.  She was all wrapped up in a beautiful green cloak.  It is all buttoned up with bright yellow button so tight that her head cannot be seen.  The green cloak is a chrysalis.  

       The chrysalis slept and slept.  Busy kept watch, but nothing seemed to happen.  She thought the Monarch butterfly had played a trick on her.  Then after two long weeks something did happen.

       The chrysalis was not green anymore.  “Why, I can see right inside now,” cried Busy Black Ant.

There, all wrapped up inside the chrysalis was an orange-and-black butterfly.  The caterpillar had changed into a butterfly at last.  But how can she get out of the chrysalis?

       Push! Push! Went the butterfly against the side of the chrysalis.  Crack! Went the chrysalis.  Push! Push! Went the butterfly again.  Crack! Crack! went the chrysalis.  And the butterfly pushed and pushed until the chrysalis cracked all the way open.  The butterfly crawled out.  She was all wet.  Her wings were all crumpled up.

Soon the butterfly was dry.  The butterfly had long smooth wings with little scales all over them.  She was a beautiful Monarch butterfly.  She moved her wings back and forth and flew away and landed on a clover to get a drink of nectar with her long tongue.

       Busy Black Ant felt lonely after the butterfly was gone.  As she walked through the grass jungles, she hoped to see more pretty butterflies.  She began to climb up a big weed.  Something big and fuzzy seemed to be in her way now.  She bumped into it and got dust on her feelers.  So she had to stop and clean her feelers.  Busy looked hard at the fuzzy thing.  It moved and she saw that it was a cousin insect.  “Hello!” said Busy.  “You have pretty wings like a butterfly.  Is that what you are?” asked Busy.

       “No, I am not a butterfly,” said the pretty insect. “Butterflies fly in the sunshine.  I sleep all day.  Then I fly in the dark night.  I am a moth.  A Cecropia moth.  I have a big fuzzy body.  And my feelers look like little feathers,” said the moth. (side view of the moth holding on to a weed)

       “I see,” said Busy Black Ant.  “A butterfly has long thin feelers, and a little body.  She loves the bright sun and you hide here in the weeds or under a leaf all day, Cecropia Moth.”

       “That is right,” answered the moth.  “Tonight I will fly away.”

       “Do you grow up the same way the butterfly does?” asked Busy. (sketch comparing the moth and butterfly)

       “Nearly, you see it goes like this: last summer I came from an egg as a caterpillar.  I was a pretty green color, and I had rows of blue and yellow quills on my sides.  I ate many, many leaves way up high in the big trees, just like that caterpillar right there.  (caterpillar picture)

       “Before I changed my suit the last time, I made a fine cradle for myself out of brown silk.  It was a cocoon.  Then I slept all last winter in the cocoon.  Here it is right beside me.  The warm sun woke me up and you can see right where I made a hole in the cocoon and came out.

 (picture of the cocoon)

       “And so here I am, a big Cecropia moth.”

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