Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Reprise: A Butterfly Birthday

(Monarch butterfly)

[Note: I turned this into a children’s story, but this actually happened to me one summer when I was small. It’s an experience I never forgot.]

~

Amy leaned over and smelled the sweet, honey-like fragrance of the tiny white flowers on a leafy green bush. It was spring — her most favorite time of year — and the big backyard was alive with blooming flowers, buzzing bees, and orange-and-black butterflies playing among the wild dandelions growing in the grass.

The butterflies were called monarchs, and Amy looked forward to their arrival every spring.

As she peered deeper into the bush, Amy spied a small green object hanging from a slender brown twig. She reached into the bush and broke off the little twig. She held the object gently in her hand, admiring the delicate green color. Near the top was a hard ridge tinted with yellow that seemed to sparkle like gold in the warm spring sunlight.

Amy had found a butterfly chrysalis. Some people call them cocoons. They are also called pupas.

Amy had learned a lot about butterflies from her teacher at school. She knew that female butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of plant leaves. After a few days small caterpillars, called larvae, eat their way out of the eggs. They finish eating the eggshells — their very first meal! After that, they attach themselves to a leaf and eat and eat and eat until they become too big for their skin. They shed their old skin, a process called molting, and then gobble it up to get important nutrients. Mmm — delicious!

Caterpillars continue to eat and grow and shed their skin until they have done this four times. Now, they are about 2 inches long. But they still have a long way to go before they turn into beautiful butterflies.

The caterpillars take long walks in search of the perfect place to rest. When they find it, they weave a sticky, silky attachment called a silk button. This allows the caterpillars to hang upside down and begin a process called metamorphosis.

For the last time, the caterpillars shed their skin and emerge as a small, oval object called a pupa, chrysalis, or cocoon. This is the third stage in the butterfly life cycle.

Amy realized what a precious treasure she held in her hand. She gathered a handful of grass and leaves and covered the bottom of a large glass jar. She carefully laid the little green cocoon to rest in the soft little nest. Then she punched air holes in the lid with a nail and screwed it on top of the jar.

She placed the jar on a table next to her bed, where the warm spring sunshine would shine through the bedroom window and warm the little green cocoon.

Every day, she looked at the little cocoon in the jar, and waited. Amy knew that the caterpillar’s body inside the chrysalis would dissolve into a liquid and the cells of the adult butterfly begin to grow. The little cocoon became more and more transparent as the immature cells developed into a full-fledged butterfly. Pretty soon, she could see the orange-and-black wings of an adult monarch inside the chrysalis.

One morning, Amy woke up and glanced at the big glass jar next to her bed. But something was different. The little cocoon was broken and empty. Sitting next to it was a brand new orange-and-black butterfly with white markings on its wings. It was the most beautiful monarch butterfly she had ever seen.

The butterfly sat on a dry leaf, slowly moving its wings up and down. Amy watched in fascination, amazed by the miracle of nature she had witnessed in the big glass jar.

But the glass jar was no place to keep such a delicate and fragile creature. She took the jar outside, unscrewed the lid, and watched the beautiful butterfly flutter away.

Dawn Pisturino

June 8, 2022

Copyright 2008-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

17 Comments »

Reprise: Butterfly Travels

(Monarch Butterfly)

Cymbals crash. Drums roll. In Pacific Grove, California, hundreds of school children, sporting orange-and-black butterfly wings, participate in the annual Butterfly Parade.

The parade is held every October to celebrate the arrival of thousands of monarch butterflies to the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. The monarchs spend the winter here, clustered onto Monterey pines and eucalyptus trees. They enjoy the moderate temperatures and misty fogs of the California coast. In February, when temperatures rise, the monarchs return home again.

Why do monarchs leave home in autumn? How do they know where to go? And how do they find their way back home again in spring?

When temperatures drop in the eastern part of the United States, monarch butterflies travel south, to the warmer climates of Florida and Mexico. Monarchs living in the West migrate to the coast of California. The butterflies need warm temperatures in order to fly. Otherwise, they will die.

Monarchs travel together in large groups for long distances. There can be as many as 1,000 butterflies in a group.

During the day, they can fly 12 miles an hour, up to 100 miles a day. Even though their wingspan is only 3 1/2 inches wide, monarchs can soar up, up into the air, as high as 2,000 feet. At night, tiny claws on their feet help them to cluster together in tree branches. They sleep until morning then start their travels all over again.

Scientists estimate that 100,000 monarch butterflies migrate every year. Some travel 4,000 miles to reach a nature reserve in the mountains of Mexico. In Santa Cruz, California, a monarch flag is hung when the first orange-and-black clusters appear. Six months later, the flag is taken down. Pacific Grove, California calls itself “Butterfly Town, USA.” Tourists flock to the city every year to get a glimpse of their colorful visitors.

Every year, volunteers from the Monarch Project tag thousands of monarchs in order to track how fast and how far the butterflies can fly. The tags are number coded and attached to the hind wings of the butterflies. When someone finds a monarch wearing a tag, the number code, date, and location are recorded.

Monarch Watch and Journey North recruit volunteers to record when and where the first monarch butterflies are spotted every year in autumn and spring.

When spring comes, the monarchs begin the long journey home. Along the way, they mate and lay eggs on milkweed plants. Butterflies that hatch in spring and early summer live two to six weeks. Butterflies born in late summer live eight to nine months because they are the ones that will migrate to warmer climates when autumn comes.

Scientists are still studying how monarch butterflies migrate to distant places and find their way home again. Are they sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field? Are they influenced by the angle of the sun’s rays? Do they follow geographical landmarks such as lakes and rivers? Does some genetic code in their bodies prompt them to return to the same location generation after generation?

Nobody knows. But people who love butterflies welcome the delicate orange-and-black monarchs to their towns every autumn and spring.

Dawn Pisturino

June 7, 2022

Copyright 2013-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

19 Comments »

Apology: Butterfly, Butterfly – A Poem

(Monarch butterflies)

[NOTE: I apologize for the confusion. I totally messed up this post when I originally wrote it. I accidentally published it when I was saving it for another day, then removed it. Then, when I restored it this morning, it popped up for June 1st instead of today. I was going to let it go, but it kept bugging me, so I re-did the post so I wouldn’t obsess over my mistake all day. That’s not OCD, right?]

by Dawn Pisturino

For my daughter, Ariel

Butterfly, Butterfly,

Dappled with red,

Night-time is coming,

Fly home to your bed!

The white moon is rising,

He hasn’t a care;

The bright stars are shining,

Reflecting him there.

Oh, Butterfly, Butterfly,

What shall you do?

If darkness enfolds you,

How will you get through?

Fly home on a moonbeam,

Guided by stars,

Or maybe such planets

As Venus and Mars?

Or, drifting along on a

Sweet summer breeze,

You’ll land where you want

And do as you please?

Float down on a flower,

The sweet nectar there,

Drawing you inward

And filling the air?

You’ll suck up your supper,

Then lay down to sleep,

Your wings folded neatly,

Their beauty to keep.

And when, in the morning,

You suddenly wake,

The sun will be rising,

A new day will break.

Then, Butterfly, Butterfly,

Fly away home!

Or follow your instincts

To wander and roam.

But come again – do! –

If you happen this way,

Night-time or daytime

Or any old day!

February 8, 1986

This poem was set to music by composer and film maker Barry Gremillion and recorded in October 2013 by Barry Gremillion and Ariel Pisturino. It was uploaded onto SoundCloud.

Thanks, Ariel and Barry!

(CD cover)

Thanks for stopping by and visiting!

Dawn Pisturino

June 6, 2022

Copyright 1986-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

27 Comments »

A Butterfly Birthday

monarch-danaus-plexippus

 

Amy leaned over and smelled the sweet, honey-like fragrance of the tiny white flowers on a leafy green bush. It was spring — her most favorite time of year — and the big backyard was alive with blooming flowers, buzzing bees, and orange-and-black butterflies playing among the wild dandelions growing in the grass.

The butterflies were called monarchs, and Amy looked forward to their arrival every spring.

As she peered deeper into the bush, Amy spied a small green object hanging from a slender brown twig. She reached into the bush and broke off the little twig. She held the object gently in her hand, admiring the delicate green color. Near the top was a hard ridge tinted with yellow that seemed to sparkle like gold in the warm spring sunlight.

Amy had found a butterfly chrysalis. Some people call them cocoons. They are also called pupas.

Amy had learned a lot about butterflies from her teacher at school. She knew that female butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of plant leaves. After a few days small caterpillars, called larvae, eat their way out of the eggs. They finish eating the eggshells — their very first meal! After that, they attach themselves to a leaf and eat and eat and eat until they become too big for their skin. They shed their old skin, a process called molting, and then gobble it up to get important nutrients. Mmm — delicious!

Caterpillars continue to eat and grow and shed their skin until they have done this four times. Now, they are about 2 inches long. But they still have a long way to go before they turn into beautiful butterflies.

The caterpillars take long walks in search of the perfect place to rest. When they find it, they weave a sticky, silky attachment called a silk button. This allows the caterpillars to hang upside down and begin a process called metamorphosis.

For the last time, the caterpillars shed their skin and emerge as a small, oval object called a pupa, chrysalis, or cocoon. This is the third stage in the butterfly life cycle.

Amy realized what a precious treasure she held in her hand. She gathered a handful of grass and leaves and covered the bottom of a large glass jar. She carefully laid the little green cocoon to rest in the soft little nest. Then she punched air holes in the lid with a nail and screwed it on top of the jar.

She placed the jar on a table next to her bed, where the warm spring sunshine would shine through the bedroom window and warm the little green cocoon.

Every day, she looked at the little cocoon in the jar, and waited. Amy knew that the caterpillar’s body inside the chrysalis would dissolve into a liquid and the cells of the adult butterfly begin to grow. The little cocoon became more and more transparent as the immature cells developed into a full-fledged butterfly. Pretty soon, she could see the orange-and-black wings of an adult monarch inside the chrysalis.

One morning, Amy woke up and glanced at the big glass jar next to her bed. But something was different. The little cocoon was broken and empty. Sitting next to it was a brand new orange-and-black butterfly with white markings on its wings. It was the most beautiful monarch butterfly she had ever seen.

The butterfly sat on a dry leaf, slowly moving its wings up and down. Amy watched in fascination, amazed by the miracle of nature she had witnessed in the big glass jar.

But the glass jar was no place to keep such a delicate and fragile creature. She took the jar outside, unscrewed the lid, and watched the beautiful butterfly flutter away.

Dawn Pisturino

Spring 2008

Copyright 2008-2020 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Contact author for sources

9 Comments »

Butterfly Travels

monarch butterfly

Cymbals crash. Drums roll. In Pacific Grove, California, hundreds of school children, sporting orange-and-black butterfly wings, participate in the annual Butterfly Parade.

The parade is held every October to celebrate the arrival of thousands of monarch butterflies to the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. The monarchs spend the winter here, clustered onto Monterey pines and eucalyptus trees. They enjoy the moderate temperatures and misty fogs of the California coast. In February, when temperatures rise, the monarchs return home again.

Why do monarchs leave home in autumn? How do they know where to go? And how do they find their way back home again in spring?

When temperatures drop in the eastern part of the United States, monarch butterflies travel south, to the warmer climates of Florida and Mexico. Monarchs living in the West migrate to the coast of California. The butterflies need warm temperatures in order to fly. Otherwise, they will die.

Monarchs travel together in large groups for long distances. There can be as many as 1,000 butterflies in a group.

During the day, they can fly 12 miles an hour, up to 100 miles a day. Even though their wingspan is only 3 1/2 inches wide, monarchs can soar up, up into the air, as high as 2,000 feet. At night, tiny claws on their feet help them to cluster together in tree branches. They sleep until morning then start their travels all over again.

Scientists estimate that 100,000 monarch butterflies migrate every year. Some travel 4,000 miles to reach a nature reserve in the mountains of Mexico. In Santa Cruz, California, a monarch flag is hung when the first orange-and-black clusters appear. Six months later, the flag is taken down. Pacific Grove, California calls itself “Butterfly Town, USA.” Tourists flock to the city every year to get a glimpse of their colorful visitors.

Every year, volunteers from the Monarch Project tag thousands of monarchs in order to track how fast and how far the butterflies can fly. The tags are number coded and attached to the hind wings of the butterflies. When someone finds a monarch wearing a tag, the number code, date, and location are recorded.

Monarch Watch and Journey North recruit volunteers to record when and where the first monarch butterflies are spotted every year in autumn and spring.

When spring comes, the monarchs begin the long journey home. Along the way, they mate and lay eggs on milkweed plants. Butterflies that hatch in spring and early summer live two to six weeks. Butterflies born in late summer live eight to nine months because they are the ones that will migrate to warmer climates when autumn comes.

Scientists are still studying how monarch butterflies migrate to distant places and find their way home again. Are they sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field? Are they influenced by the angle of the sun’s rays? Do they follow geographical landmarks such as lakes and rivers? Does some genetic code in their bodies prompt them to return to the same location generation after generation?

Nobody knows. But people who love butterflies welcome the delicate orange-and-black monarchs to their towns every autumn and spring.

Dawn Pisturino

Copyright 2013-2015 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

1 Comment »

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