The Butterfly is a Boy!!!

Our second butterfly of the season was born today.

I waited a long time as he dried and rested before he finally opened his wings and lo and behold, when he finally did, I saw two black telltale spots on his wings. He was a boy. So Thomas was the perfect name for him.

We have been studying Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury that was murdered in his church, because of disagreements with King Henry II. We read a little bit about it in A Proud Taste For Scarlet and Miniver by E. L. Konisgburg. Then we read If All the Swords in England by Barbara Willard to get a full picture of the event.

So we chose the name Thomas for him. We also like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas a Kempis and Thomas Stonewall Jackson, so we were happy with the name. I was happy when I saw the sense spots on the butterfly’s wings this morning. I was afraid we might have to change his name to Thomasina. But I couldn’t tell anything from peeking into the closed wings. He finally opened them wide and the spots were very obvious.

You’ll be able to see them in the video below.

This Year’s First Butterfly!!!

Did you ever wonder how to tell the difference between a boy butterfly and a girl butterfly?

Go here and find out! You’ll be amazed at how easy it is.

We had a successful birth of a new butterfly this morning. The chrysalis was getting dark yesterday, so I started watching it closely and taking pictures. Then it started to get transparent and we could see the orange and black wings. I knew it would come out (eclose) by this morning.

I was right! When we woke up this morning, the butterfly was hanging onto the outside of its transparent chrysalis. The chrysalis was moving around a little bit, so that probably helped her to dry out faster. We know she’s a girl because she doesn’t have any spots on the bottoms of her wings when she opens them. We named her Diamond.

Some things I’ve learned about raising Monarch caterpillars and butterflies:

1. Go out to a field where you see milkweed growing along the edge and look under the leaves for a striped caterpillar. If it’s later in the season, they will be big and orange and black and easy to see. If they’re smaller in the beginning of August, they will be white and hard to tell what they are. But if it’s on a milkweed, it’s probably a Monarch. (You can see a picture of a tiny one and how fast he grew in this post. See my posts in the category Caterpillar Chronicles to read more about how to raise Monarch butterflies from caterpillars. There are also some posts about the spiritual significance of caterpillars and butterflies among them.)

2. Put your caterpillar in a jar with a milkweed leaf. Pick some extra leaves in case the caterpillar needs to eat for a while before making a chrysalis. Just let him crawl on the leaf and eat for a few days.

3. Keep an eye on him and if you see him leave the leaf and act like he’s looking for something, he’s ready to make a chrysalis. I put the jar inside a cardboard box, because mine have often made them on the underside of the flaps of cardboard boxes. I’ve tried different materials at the top of the jar, but the flaps of a cardboard box have worked best. Two of mine last year made chrysalises on the side of the glass jars they were in. That made me nervous. I didn’t think they would stick, but they did.

4. After a week and a half to two weeks, start watching closely again and you’ll see the chrysalis start to get darker. Keep watching and you’ll see it get more transparent, and you’ll be able to see the colors of the wings inside.

5. When the butterfly comes out, don’t touch it. Let it hang on the empty chrysalis and dry. It will start walking around on its own. Then take it outside and see if it will go on the leaf of a tree. It may stay on a tree and dry some more. Or it may just be ready to take off and fly away before you even get a chance to film it. Like Diamond did for us today.

Planting Butterfly Seeds

Butterflies are among the most beautiful and delicate of God’s creatures. I love to see them flit through the air on their wings of gossamer.

I would love to see more of them than I do. I don’t have my own home yet, so I can’t plant my own butterfly garden.

But I can do some things to attract them. I can have plants that I know they like in planters outside.

Well, today we planted some unusual plants that a special butterfly lays its eggs on. These plants are considered weeds by most people, and they are getting more rare because of weed killers, thus endangering the butterflies whose caterpillars subsist on them.

If you haven’t guessed yet, the plants that we planted today are milkweeds.

The butterfly that lays its eggs on the milkweed is the Monarch butterfly. I really love Monarchs.

I went out looking for Monarch caterpillars the other day, but I didn’t find one. I did find a milkweed, and on that milkweed was a big, fat seed pod. So I brought the seed pod home to show my kids. We didn’t have that kind of milkweed in Illinois. But this pod was like the ones I saw as a child growing up in Ohio.

I didn’t have any real plans for this pod – just thought I would show it to my kids.

As time went on, they kept asking me about it, and I could tell they wanted to tear that thing open. I thought, “Hmmm, that might not be a bad idea. Let them see what’s inside.” See what a brilliant teacher I am! 😛 It’s a good thing I have such bright students. They keep us on the learning path.

So today we split it open and saw beautiful, orderly rows of seeds all tightly wrapped around a feathery center. I had never before noticed how orderly and systematically they were arranged inside of a milkweed pod.  Or if I did, I had forgotten.



We started peeling a few of them off and noticed how the straight smooth feathery pieces became fluffy and curled as they dried out. The better to fly on the breeze with, my dear.


And the seeds were attached to these little feathers.


So then I had the brilliant idea of letting the kids take the seeds outside and let them fly. And we would plant some in our garden, too. We probably won’t be here to see them grow. And the next person to live here may not appreciate milkweed growing up through their patio, but we’re doing our part to try to replenish the food plant of the Monarch butterfly caterpillars.

We’re hoping for a good crop of Monarch butterflies!

The kids had so much fun!



Examining the pod and the seeds

Then each of them took some “feathers” with seeds on them.

And held them up and let them go. Off to hopefully plant themselves somewhere that would be hospitable to milkweeds.

Then my children flew and twirled and spun and danced and ran in the breeze like newborn butterflies fresh from the chrysalis.

Planting Milkweed Seeds from Penney Douglas on Vimeo.

P. S. Just don’t tell my neighbors what we did.

P. P. S. At least we didn’t plant dandelion seeds. Oh yeah, I guess my kids have done that. Many times.

How to Raise a Monarch from a Caterpillar

I found out what was wrong with my butterfly. It was afflicted with something called OE spore. I found out about it at Here’s the page that tells about it.

I was glad to know that we didn’t do anything wrong to cause my butterfly to die. But it was still sad. We had 4 caterpillars, including the one we gave to our neighbors. Two of them were crippled by OE spore and were unable to get out of their chrysalises and their wings were shriveled and useless. Two of them were perfect, and we had a very happy experience with them.

I wanted to put some links together for others who might want to raise monarch butterflies or at least show their children how the process happens.

1. Find a monarch caterpillar. Where can you find a monarch caterpillar?

On a milkweed plant

Here’s what a baby monarch caterpillar looks like:

Here is a site about the different types of milkweed, so you can look around and see what kind of milkweed grows near you.

2. You need to gather milkweed regularly for about 2 weeks to feed your caterpillar. They like their food fresh!

Ours really liked to eat the flowers. We had swamp milkweed near us.

Pictured is a type of milkweed called Butterfly Weed. Its scientific name is: Asclepias Tuberosa
3. How do you know when a caterpillar is ready to become a chrysalis?

He stops eating and starts roaming around looking for a place to hang upside down. He will attach himself to a surface and hang upside down in a J shape.

Then after a couple of hours, he will start to turn green. Here is a video you can watch to see what this process looks like. Prepare to be amazed!

Here’s a time-lapse video, if you’re pressed for time!

4. Then you have to wait another 2 weeks or so (sometimes not that long) before they are changed into a butterfly and come out of the chrysalis. The process of coming out of the chrysalis is called eclosing.

Here is a video of a monarch coming out of its chrysalis.

5. After your butterfly ecloses from the chrysalis, you can take it outside in the sun to let it dry its wings and get ready to fly. This will probably take a couple of hours before it will try to fly. We put ours up in a tree.

And make sure you check out the best site of all – – for learning all you ever wanted to know about monarch butterflies.

Take note of the cute dog in the header with the monarch butterflies landed on it.  It’s so cute!!!

Redemption Comes in Many Forms, Part 2

The death of my first butterfly was redeemed today.

Today was the day that another one of our butterflies emerged from its chrysalis. I was kind of worried about our other two butterflies because we had such a hard time finding Milkweed for them. And then they attached their chrysalises to the outside of their jars! Their chrysalises are small, too.

Here’s the one that came out today.

She’s fine! Phew! What a relief.

This is how it looked last night before we went to bed.

This was how the chrysalis looked at 7:30 in the morning. I had put the jar beside my bed so I could see the little rascal come out. I took this picture at 7:30 AM, then went back to sleep. When I opened my eyes again at 10:00 AM, I was staring at an empty chrysalis!

I looked around on my nightstand. I got Anna to help me and she found it on the floor all crumpled up. But as soon as she picked it up, the wings started straightening out. She put it on an envelope and let it hang upside down from it. We thought gravity might help it with the straightening of the wings. Then we took it out and put it up on the branch of a tree.

A beautiful butterfly, at last!

We waited for hours and finally we were rewarded with this sight:

First Flight of Baby Butterfly from Penney Douglas on Vimeo.

The date was Sept. 13, not Sept. 11. I was still sleepy and not thinking too clearly.

My neighbors had a chrysalis, too, from the caterpillar Fiona gave to them. They came out to watch our butterfly hang in a tree, hoping to see it fly for the first time. They had to go in and start school before our butterfly was ready to fly. So they went inside their house. After about 20 minutes they came back out. Their butterfly came out of its chrysalis, too!

So Tina put her butterfly up in the same tree that our butterfly was in. It was her tree, after all! Our butterfly had flown to Tina’s tree on her maiden flight. So we watched and waited for our butterflies to fly, but we couldn’t stay out there all day. We took some pictures and then left them with our blessings.

Butterfly Neighbors from Penney Douglas on Vimeo.

Sorry it’s so hard to see the butterflies. I had a hard time seeing the butterflies with the camera, and for some reason I didn’t think to zoom or press the close-up lens on my camera. If you listen to what I say on the video, I give some pretty good information. If you look real close you might be able to see our butterfly at the lower right hand side of the screen.

I hope our butterflies make it to Mexico or California and join lots of other Monarchs like this!
By the way, I got this picture and lots of other good information about Monarchs from this site.

Butterfly Kisses

Later this evening, Gary said he was outside and a butterfly flew right by his face. He figured it was our butterfly. I think she likes us and wanted to stay and be our pet. Tonight when they got home from the YMCA, a butterfly landed on Patrick. He took it over to the meadow where there’s clover and the mosquito sprayers won’t come. I asked if he said nice things to her as he released her. He said that he told her to have a nice flight and stay away from snakes, frogs and toads. That sounded pretty good to me.

So I had a sweet experience with two butterflies after having such a disheartening experience with my birthday butterfly a week and a half ago. Tina’s butterfly came out after only a week. It usually takes at least 12 days. I feel like God is saying that He will always give me good things, no matter what bad things happen along the way. He always more than makes up for any loss or disappointment I suffer along the way.

Another Redemptive Experience

I have had several bad experiences with the Mascoutah Library during the year we have lived here. So I stopped going there completely. But I was still considered their patron. I was allowed to use their card at the Belleville Library, where the staff was always very kind and reasonable with me. But I was considered Mascoutah’s patron. They said I owed $11, which I did not. But I couldn’t get them to take it off. They said they waived it, but it remained on my account. I went to Belleville and never had any problems with them. But last week I had to re-register my library card. So the librarian had to call Mascoutah Library to make sure I was in good standing. They said I owed $11. I told the librarian what had been happening. She went to bat for me. She called them back and told them that I had been a very good patron of theirs for a year and a half (closer to 2 years) and that she had never known me to be dishonest. In fact, I was there to pay a fine I owed and had just handed her the money when she decided to call and try to work things out. She told them that I said I did not owe that fine of $11. The person on the other end said it must have been a computer glitch, and they cleared my record. I was then able to use my card to check things out at Belleville Library for as long as we’re still here. We have no idea how long that will be, but I’m so relieved that I will be able to keep using the library until we go.

I felt that “picked-on” feeling until the librarian, Serena (wonderful Serena), went to bat for me. It almost made me cry when I heard that it was taken care of.

God Makes All Things New

The enemy tries many things to make us feel defeated. These may seem like small things, but they felt huge to me. Well, being kicked out of our house is pretty major. But the butterflies and library fines may not seem too important. But God knows how I’m made. He knows what affects me and how it affects me. And He cares. And I happen to know that He likes me. He thinks I’m a pretty okay person.

He reminded me of that today. Through a butterfly. He started the redemption process last Thursday night through a little librarian named Serena.

I don’t know how He will redeem the stress and uncertainty we’ve experienced as we’ve waited for Him to move again and the devil has applied pressure to make us feel worthless and uncared-for. But I know He will do something wonderful for us. Just because He loves us. We are His beloved and He is ours.

He makes all things work together for our good. Because we love Him. Because He loves us.

But There’s More

There’s another message in the butterfly. The one that Pat delivered to me. I am to look like my Creator. I am not to be fearful of predators. I need not hold back out of fear of negative comments. I need not fear losing friends because of telling the truth about what I believe. It’s time for me to come out of my chrysalis.