We went to the children's museum this afternoon.
The oldest played hide-and-seek with a few other kids while the baby and I explored the garden.
Each summer the museum lets the field behind its building grow wild. I found a patch of milkweed and inspected the stems for monarch eggs, but couldn't find a single one.
A decade ago, my mom and I gathered some milkweed cuttings from an abandoned lot.
I was still living at my parents' house back then, trying to eke out a living as a freelance writer. One of Mom's friends had told her how to raise butterflies from eggs, and she wanted to give it a try. We set the milkweed in a vase and watched as several tiny caterpillars turned the leaves to lace.
A few days later, chrysalides appeared. They started as an opaque green lined with spangles of gold, then slowly turned dark and translucent. In the final days, we could see the orange and black pattern of butterfly wings inside. I snapped a few photos of the process and sold them, along with an article, to Pennsylvania Magazine.
I was hoping I could repeat the butterfly experiment for the boys this summer.
But monarch butterfly populations have been in steady decline over the past decade. I can count on one hand the number of monarchs I saw fluttering over my yard last summer, so I wasn't surprised when I didn't find any eggs today. Disappointed, maybe, but not surprised.
It's only June, so I'll keep up the butterfly egg hunt for a few more weeks. Maybe I'll skip the harvesting step next year and just fill my garden with milkweed plants instead. The buds are so beautiful, I'd be a fool not to.
While we're on the topic of butterflies, have you heard the "Black Box" episode of the Radiolab podcast? In the "Goo and You" segment, they investigate what really happens during the chrysalis phase of a butterfly's life. Like all subjects Radiolab explores, it's utterly fascinating. (If you'd rather listen to it on the Radiolab homepage, go here.)