A short story specially for the very young
Butterflies are very special little creatures. They start off as a small egg; a caterpillar crawls out of this and feeds on green leaves till it’s very fat. Then the caterpillar weaves a tiny container for itself, a cocoon, which it sleeps in for about ten days. In that time something very special happens: inside the cocoon the caterpillar turns into a butterfly. It crawls out and flies away.
Did you know that there’s a school for caterpillars? No? Well, that’s not surprising, because almost nobody knows this. Look carefully in the summertime at the trees and bushes. Sometimes you’ll see a small group of caterpillars on one leaf or sometimes they’re hanging together in a small bag of cobwebs. Most people don’t realize this, but those are the classrooms of the school for butterfly children. That is where the caterpillar children taught how they to become real butterflies: first as a caterpillar, then they suddenly turn into a cocoon and next into a butterfly.
In a certain class of caterpillars which are almost about to turn into butterflies, there are a couple of mean caterpillars who are always teasing three shy and anxious little caterpillars in particular. One day things get really nasty. One caterpillar has his little leg bitten; another one has the hairs on its back pulled; and the third one has one of its feelers broken off. Then they simply chuck the poor caterpillars out of the tree and laugh at them.
The three of them lie there on the ground feeling sad. Not only are they in pain, they feel stupid and ugly too. And they’re very angry! What should they do now?
They don’t want to be teased in that way again and they never ever want to go to school again. The caterpillar with the sore leg says: “Let’s run away to somewhere far from here. We’ll never let ourselves be teased again, we’re going to do things differently next time round. Not because we’re weak and shy, but because we are kind and clever caterpillars. Together we can make this happen!”
But how are they going to do that?
They creep over the bumpy forest floor on their many tiny legs. That’s not easy for them. They can only move very slowly and their little legs also hurt because they aren’t made for walking a long way.
Two days later they fall asleep in a hollow tree, but wake up with a fright a few hours later.
What’s that? They can hear a tawny owl hooting, mosquitoes zooming, a fox snuffling about, frogs croaking. They can see a bat flying and a spider going by. What a lot of animals are up and about in the night!
This gives them an idea. They look at each other and one of them cries out happily: ”We don’t need to take another step, from now on we’re going to live by night! Then we won’t be teased by other caterpillars and butterflies anymore!”
But the caterpillar with the broken feeler says quietly: “Yes, but butterflies like us can’t see flowers or find honey in the dark.”
“We’ll just have to experiment once we’ve turned into butterflies” ,says the fat caterpillar, because he senses the time has come for him to start weaving a cocoon and soon after that he will quickly turn into a real butterfly.
Another ten days later all three of them crawl out of their cocoons and have become butterflies. They are really going to try and live by night. But it’s difficult: it’s dark at night and they can’t see the delicious flowers. So what now?
A mosquito flies past zooming as it snuffles around the three young butterflies. One of them asks: “Mosquito, how do you find food at night?”
“Zmm, I can smell it, zmmm,” zooms the mosquito.
That sounds like a good idea to them: smelling! While the three butterflies are doing their very best to smell, the feelers on their heads grow fatter and fatter until after three days spent practising they finally burst open. At first they hurt a bit, but then to their surprise they find they can actually smell far better with these open feelers. A few days later the open feelers look like little feathers, which is very useful. They can smell the honey of the night flowers: the fragrant honeysuckle which climbs up trees, the fluorescent yellow evening primrose, and the white campion. They discover that there are no nasty caterpillars and butterflies out and about in the night. There are even more surprises in store: they hear the silence of the night, they see that the stars and the moon give light.
This is how the first daytime butterflies started living by night and became the butterflies of the night, the moths.