Lessons Learned from a 7-year-old Naturalist
This weekend, while walking on a beach along Lake Michigan, we spotted a dozen or so dead monarch butterflies. Some were fully intact while others were missing 1 or 2 wings. This happens around the same time every year. The monarchs start making their way south for the winter and unfortunately some just don’t make it.
We collected a few of the wings to dry out and save (We never pass up a good specimen!) and started walking home. Along the way, we literally stumbled upon a monarch in the grass near the beach. We got down on our knees and took a closer look. The butterfly was missing a wing and appeared to be dead until my son tried to pick it up. It moved it’s wings, just barely, but enough to let us know that it had a little life left in it. “Can I take it home?” my son asked. “Since it can’t fly, I want to help fix it’s wing.” Thinking that this wouldn’t have a happy ending, we both reluctantly agreed to let him take it home, but cautioned that it would probably die by the time we got there.
Where did you learn that?
As soon as we arrived home, my son jumped into action and started making a sugar water mixture for the butterfly. As luck would have it, he had recently been given a mesh butterfly nursery habitat, so he quickly set that up as well. My son carefully put the monarch in the mesh enclosure, added a little plate with a sponge and the sugar water mixture and headed out to the yard to pick some milkweed for the butterfly to eat.
Again, we cautioned him, “Just pick a few. The butterfly will probably die soon.” But that didn’t stop him. We was determined to nurse the monarch back to health, and that’s exactly what he did.
By the time we got back to the makeshift butterfly hospital, the monarch (now known affectionately as “Dibwid”) was sitting on the sponge dipping it’s proboscis into the sweet mixture. Even though Dibwid couldn’t fly, he (we determined the Dibwid is a male) hopped around and even flapped his wings.
I Stand Corrected
Three days later, Dibwid is still with us. My son takes him out for “air time” and “flower time.” Dibwid sits in his hands, hops around and exercises his wings. My son is still hoping that Dibwid will fly some day.
Now, I know better than to try to try to protect him from disappointment or warn him that the monarch may never fly again. You just never know.