Caterpillars - loathsome and destructive - not what I want to find in my garden.
Yet somehow, these vile creatures transform into the breathtakingly beautiful fluttering butterflies synonymous with balmy summer days.
Truly one of nature's great miracles.
Nick Baker's Butterfly World from Interplay is a butterfly rearing kit that gives us the opportunity to witness this miracle.
I remember collecting caterpillars in jam jars as a child. Often, this did not end well for the caterpillars. The butterfly rearing kit contains all the equipment needed along with an information booklet to ensure that the life cycle of a butterfly can be studied safely and respectfully.
There are two ways of sourcing the specimens for the study. One is to send off for captive reared caterpillars of the Painted Lady butterfly. Alternatively, go out and find your own.
Armed with the paintbrush and collection jar provided, we scoured the garden on a collecting mission, feeling like proper naturalists. Would you believe it? We couldn't find a single one. Good news for my plants, bad news for our project.
Whilst I was out for a run recently, I saw a HUGE hairy caterpillar on the road. It would not have fitted in the collection jar even if I had happened to have it on me but it did make me think that extending our search from the garden into the hedgerows of the country lanes nearby might be the next step (a little adventure for the weekend)
Once we have our specimens, the booklet gives very clear instructions on how to care for the caterpillars through to the chrysalis stage and then how to transfer them into the net cage provided for the final transformation into adult butterfly. This is not for the faint hearted or fickle. It is very hands on and would certainly require plenty of adult supervision to see it through to the conclusion.
I am in equal measures nervous and excited - fascinated and repulsed. I have no doubt that the whole family, not just the kids, will get a lot out of it. Now we just need to find those caterpillars!!