Walt's Look Around: Raising Butterflies - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Walt's Look Around: Raising Butterflies

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BRANDON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

This is Renate Hunt of Brandon. She's heading out into her back yard to gather eggs. And if you were raised in the country, an entirely different mental picture of what she is going after may have popped into your mind. But she's not looking for hen eggs, but butterfly eggs. And specific butterflies lay their eggs on specific types of plants. Fennel and dill seems to be a favorite for Mississippi's state butterfly, the swallowtail.

Renate Hunt: And it maybe was laid today or yesterday, I don't know. But.

Walt: Renate has a place all fixed up specifically for raising butterflies. It takes a sharp eye to spot the tiny white eggs. They are just little dots on the undersides of the plants. And they choose specific plants because when the eggs hatch into caterpillars, the tiny little insects start in eating. And that is their main purpose in life for the first couple of weeks of life, to eat as often as they can, as much as they can. Then, in about a week, they have grown from tiny, tiny to ginormous eating machines, devouring everything put before them.

Renate: And if you run out of dill or fennel, you can go in your grocery store and buy a little bundle of parsley for about 50 cents or so.

Walt: After a couple of weeks of gorging, suddenly, they stop eating altogether. And turn into little oblong objects, attach themselves somewhere and sit. And sit. You think they are dead the get so still. And shrink. And dry up and turn brown. And just about the time you think you've killed them, one morning you look in your container and discover, not a caterpillar, but a butterfly. And the only thing left to do is open the door and let 'em go.

Renate: It's so easy to RESCUE them, is what the right word should be, rescue.

Walt: It's a little miracle right there on your porch, to see this change into this. And when they discover their wings and let them dry and get used to them, they're gone. Gone to find a mate and repeat the process. And, somehow, find the wintering grounds in Mexico and such places. And come again next year looking for our patches of dill and fennel that we're gonna be sure to set out for them by next spring, to lay more eggs and make more caterpillars that will shrivel up into pupa and unfold into beautiful butterflies.

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