The Swarms meet Silky

By Curt Swarm


Big news on the Empty Nest Farm! This February, during one of our warm spells, I found what appeared to be a leafy cocoon or chrysalis under our maple tree.

It was about as large as my thumb, and seemed to have two twigs poking out of one end. When I picked it up, I could feel movement inside. I laid it down on the picnic table in the unusually warm winter sun, reminiscent of Indian Summer, and sure enough, it bounced around like a Mexican Jumping Bean.

I carried it into the house and hollered for Ginnie to, ?Quick, come see!?

She came running. I had the thing lying on the kitchen counter. ?Eww,? she said. ?What is it? I don't think I want that thing in my house.?

By this time it had lost its movement. I wondered if I had harmed it by bringing it in.

I took a picture of the thing and posted it on Facebook, asking, ?Does anyone know what this is?? I got a lot of response, most of it tongue-in-cheek. A friend from California suggested that I put it in a jar, with holes in the lid, and wait to see what happens.

Well, I did. I set it in Ginnie's garage, on the barbeque grill, where we would see it every time we passed by. ?I think that thing is dead,? Ginnie kept reminding me. I thought so, too. But what the heck? It wasn't bothering anything, and it wasn't stinking. Yet.

Lo-and-behold, on April 12, Ginnie was getting in her car to go to town for groceries. This would be her first attempt at driving since her hip replacement surgery, and her first trip to the grocery store by herself. (I have finally convinced her that's it's okay to use the motorized carts.) I checked to make sure she had her cell phone so that she could call in case of problems, or if she couldn't remember whether we needed milk or not. I waved goodbye and, as I was going back in the house, I saw movement in the jar.

Holy moley, guacamole! The critter was out of its shell and thrashing around. It had a huge abdomen, once again about as big as my thumb, and absurdly tiny wings, like a cartoon bug.

I sent a text to Ginnie, ?It hatched!?

I grabbed a box, dumped the critter into it, and covered the box with plastic wrap. Then, before my eyes, I watched a miracle of spring unfold. Those tiny little wings grew into huge, beautiful sails, with an eye spot on each. Praise God! I hadn't seen anything like this since the birth of my kids.

I was reminded of the proverb, ?Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.?

Ginnie came home and we took its picture. Once again, I posted it on Facebook. This time, my California friend's wife identified it as a giant silkworm moth, stating, ?The feathery antennae indicates that it's a male. They use the antennae to 'smell' for a female. I'm so jealous!!!?

We turned Silky loose in the flower garden before Buddy could glump him down. With Silky's freedom, hopefully, will come survival. Although, according to Wikipedia, the male seeks a mate and dies within a couple of hours. Also, that cocoon or chrysalis, is built in tree branches (thus, the twigs sticking out of the end). The ?eye? on the wing is for startling a would-be predator into ?thinking? it's an owl. The caterpillar can spend its entire life in the tree and can consume ?86,000 times its weight in a little less than two months.? Move over Miss Piggy!

The next morning, as I let Buddy out and retrieved the morning newspaper, I looked to see if Silky was still around. Nope. A nearly full moon winked its eye. Maybe Silky found his bride.


Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm, in Mt. Pleasant, at 319-217-0526, email him at or find him on Facebook. Swarm?s stories are also read a 106.3 FM, in Farmington.