Metamorphosis – from Angry Man to Butterfly Enthusiast

I once saw a customer go through a change almost as amazing as a caterpillar’s metamorphosis. It happened the first time he saw a caterpillar turn into a chrysalis.

This man did not want to be a customer, and he did not want to be here at the nursery. This was back when they were working on Centerville Road and just making the effort to get here was a declaration of loyalty from our customers. He was a very angry business man in a very expensive suit, barking about ‘THE WIFE!’ who wanted him to get a butterfly kit for ‘THE KID!’ He did not have time for ‘THIS NONSENSE!’ “JUST SELL ME THE KIT AND LET ME GET OUT OF HERE!”

I should explain something here. I like our customers and I have never (with this one exception) gone out of my way to annoy one. But a funny thing happened to my attitude as I listened to this man rant and rage. I so lost control of my good sense I decided it might be fun to push him the rest of the way around the bend.

“What kind of butterfly?” I smiled, beginning my attack.


“You’ll need to know which butterfly so you’ll know which larval food to buy.”


“That’s what the caterpillar eats.”


“Butterflies come from pupae, which come from caterpillars, which come from eggs laid on larval food.”

“OKAY ALREADY! YOU CHOOSE!” I swear I could see steam coming from his ears, and I just know he wanted to yell, “QUIT SMILING!”

“Okay—Monarchs.” I led him out the front door, stopped and pointed left. “Native milkweed?”— pointed right, “or non-native milkweed?”

He just stared at me, his face turning a deeper shade of red by the moment; and I considered asking him if it didn’t hurt – grinding his teeth like that. Instead I decided to be an adult and quit teasing the grouch. So I grabbed some milkweed and said, “Okay then. Come back inside, I’ll explain the process and get you out of here.”

“Where can I buy some caterpillars?” he asked on the way inside. “Do you sell them?”

“Oh we don’t sell caterpillars. We give them away. I’ll send you home with a couple Monarchs.”

He did not say it out loud but his thoughts could not have been more clear in three-foot neon.What kind of idiot would give something away when she could sell it? He literally took a couple steps away from me—worried about catching ‘nice’ I suppose.

So I took him over to the <a href=”butterflyrearingcage.html”>butterfly cage</a> and was explaining the process when I noticed his eyes bugging out. “What’s happening?!” he gasped.

Looked a bit like a heart attack, but then I glanced into the cage. “Oh look, one of the caterpillars is becoming a chrysalis.”

“Oh my Gosh!” (not his exact words . . . those I can’t use here) “I can’t believe it! That looks like something Stephen Spielberg would come up with! That’s unbelievable! OH MY GOSH!!”

It really is amazing to watch a caterpillar become a chrysalis, but the more drastic change occurred outside the cage that day. Within a matter of minutes, a very angry man became a very nice man who was fascinated by butterflies. He could not wait to get home and share the experience with his wife and daughter, but first he took the time to buy everything they would need for their new hobby. He asked lots of questions, signed up for our newsletter and noted the date of our next butterfly workshop on his calendar. He smiled and talked nonstop as I helped him carry his purchases to the car. And before he left, he shook my hand and grinning from ear to ear said, “This is the best day I’ve had in a long time. Thank you.” I was grinning too as I watched him drive away, and I wondered if his wife and daughter would recognize him. When I met them (they all came to the workshop), his daughter complained (with a grin) that no one but dad ever saw the caterpillars change because “mom and I can’t get near the cage because dad’s always in the way!”

Where Do All These Frogs Come From?

Tallahassee Democrat 09/10

I like my theory. On rainy spring nights, ‘Rana-man’ rides around on his Harley, pitching bullfrogs over the garden fences of all the folks in Tallahassee who’ve created a backyard garden pond (and have been good). I know he rides a Harley, because that’s the sound his frogs make, a deep rolling grumble, albeit a bit softer than the bike. How else do you explain these bullfrogs showing up in isolated garden ponds, behind fences, miles from water? Oh yes, the frog eggs sticking to the heron’s feet theory. Really? Is that all you have?

We have a long time customer who for a while brought us squirming buckets of tadpoles from her pond, but I’m sure Linda is not responsible. However it happens, frogs make water gardening fun and unpredictable. Fun because…frogs are fun! Unpredictable because you never know who will show up to eat them: hawks, owls, herons, water-snakes, raccoons—all good reasons why they shouldn’t be there–not alive.

They’re not easy to catch though—at least not for me. I chased one across open grass once—I dived, I grabbed—came up with clumps of grass again and again. And if you do manage to catch one, there’s that trick they play. You’ve never felt anything go so relaxed as a bullfrog in your hand. It practically melts—until it decides you’re not paying attention—then boing!

I think the secret to their survival is nocturnal activity. They hop about in the grass at night ambushing anything they can fit in their mouth. Then by day, they play it cool in the confines of your pond.

If you’d like to encourage frogs to move into your garden pond, here are some tips. Bog areas along the pond edge are ideal for frogs. Their eyes emerging from mats of algae or lemon bacopa give their owners away. Pickerel weed provides good cover, as does Lizard tail, another native plant with pretty white flowers in the spring. Irises make great frog habitat. Plant them in the ground just outside the liner to visually extend the size of your pond.

If your pond is in a shady part of the yard, wet rocks near the waterfall spray will grow a lovely mat of green moss; irresistible to leopard frogs. We often see them congregate together, ready to jump en masse when you get too close. They have to be careful. In addition to the predators listed above, they’re also on the bullfrog’s menu. A friend once told me a story of finding a leopard frog in his house. He slid open the French doors and innocently tossed it into his small patio pond, only to see it disappear down the gullet of a bullfrog he didn’t know he had. I guess the newcomer was hungry, after a long night on the back of that motorcycle.