Don't count your caterpillars before they pupate

Aesop* warned me, but I didn't listen. Last Friday I was ecstatic after discovering caterpillars on the sunflower in the school garden. Perfect timing. The munchers would be ready to make their chrysalises the first week of school. The summer school kids watched the bordered patch butterfly lay eggs on the leaf week before last, so we knew what the butterflies would be. This was going to be fabulous!

All weekend I spun art class projects to connect with the science observations of the caterpillars. Saturday I attended the Butterfly Festival at Texas Discovery Garden, further fueling my imagination.

Monday morning, no caterpillars. None. How could this be? While I watered the school garden, I searched every inch of the sunflowers. My little larval lesson plans had disappeared like the Roanoke colony or the Anasazi. To say my hopes were dashed is inadequate.  There was nothing to do but float despondently in the condo pool.

Late this afternoon I drove to school on the pretext of watering the garden. Really I was praying the caterpillars had just been playing hide and seek with me. Just as I arrived a sunshiny downpour started. Never mind getting soaked. Were there any caterpillars on the sunflowers? No!

I did feel like someone was staring at me in my wet t-shirt, and it wasn't the bald guy from the office building next door who drives the baby blue Honda. Hanging upside down from the highest sunflower leaf was our playground friend, the praying mantis, looking larger.

Two mysteries are solved. I know where the mantis goes when it rains.  Plus, I know who ate the caterpillars.     

Going to float in the pool.  Think I'll wait on making new lesson plans, though.
*570 B.C. "The Milkmaid and Her Pail" just in case you wondered.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

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