The Mourning Cloak Masacre!

March 11th, 2016

Today was pretty much like any other warm winter-come-spring day lately in south Orange county, California.  The sun was shining in between the most magnificent,  puffy cumulus clouds amid a perfect blue sky with the temperature being perfect (high 60’s to low 70’s),  and along with the smell of freshly cut grass – AH! it made an awesome start to my morning.

As I left the house, I glanced up at the stucco around our entry way that we share with our new next door neighbors, and there were 12 Mourning Cloak caterpillars getting ready to cocoon.  Most of them had their heads already curled, like an old-fashioned wooden umbrella handle, ready to spin!  So, to me as a lover of all living things and mega good food, I thought it was magnificent that we had so many caterpillars, and especially at this time of the year.  I am still forever amazed at the metamorphosis  of a caterpillar, and I think I always will be.

So, I left at 8:20 a.m to take the kids to school, while listening to them verbally attacking  each other in the backseat of the car – so, I laid on a threat, “if you continue to bicker at each other, you can walk home today – okay”?  in my very stern, mom hasn’t had enough coffee yet today voice!  Silence thereafter! 🙂

I came home and threw in a load of laundry  – love the scented Gain detergent, but if I can’t get my hands on Tide with Downy (that’s the bees knees)!  I then took hubby to work up the street at 11:00 a.m., and did a quick shop in Costco wholesale, grabbing the four items on my list – Organic brown rice, a bag of baby spinach, a bag of brocollette – tender baby broccoli (the kids new favorite especially roasted with a little olive oil, s & p at 400 degrees F. for about 15 minutes),  a box of Peet’s dark roast  K-cups  and two cases of bottled water.  There were other things in my cart as well that were not on the list – but we won’t talk about that!

After doing a little cleaning and surfing the internet for inspiration for recipes for my 3 cooking sites, I gathered my healthy salad of spinach, tuna, red onion, baby cucumber slices and a chopped egg into a container and  then headed off up to school to wait for the kids to get out.

You just HAVE to get to the school early, or it becomes pandemonium with idiot drivers who don’t obey the flow of traffic on campus.  So, I get there early and take my time.  I grab a curbside seat, eat my salad in the car and play a little Candy Crush or Soda Saga, listen to the radio until I run out of lives – then read my back up book in my bag.

As I returned home, I pulled into the gate and pressed the opener,  and I saw our young gardener friend walking down the footpath in front of our house.  He’s a nice kid and works hard.   I parked, the kids ran ahead with the house key and let themselves in, while I plodded on behind.  As I rounded the corner to my front door, I literally stopped dead in my tracks!  I don’t know how long I was standing there, but I could not believe what I saw – or rather what I didn’t see!  The caterpillars were GONE!

I was beside myself and I got emotional really quick!  I dropped my groceries on the kitchen floor and ran out into the parking lot to speak to the young gardener.  I asked him if he kindly cleaned up the caterpillars on the stucco (I didn’t want him to think I was angry – I wanted the truth), and he said that he hadn’t.  I believed him.

That left my neighbors – maybe their kids were afraid of the big, black hairy things hanging from the walls.  I didn’t go a-knocking, I let it slide.  There was one left right in the corner above my door, so I was content that I could see this one hatch.   However, the next day the same thing happened, and the one caterpillar which had successfully cocooned itself by my front door had vanished!

My husband arrived home from work later in the day, and even he noticed that it was missing.  He went and knocked on the neighbor’s door and confronted them (nicely) regarding the caterpillars.  To my surprise they were as upset as we were.  They had been taking pictures and were excited to watch them morph with their children to teach them something about nature.

I noticed the day before, that more Mourning Cloak caterpillars had successfully attached themselves to several upstairs neighbor’s balcony walls along the sidewalk where nobody could get to them.  So, I went to investigate as to whether they were still there, just out of curiosity.  They too, were gone! .

So, by process of elimination, my husband and I determined that the birds must have found them to feed to their young, as it is almost spring and I’m sure eggs are hatching everywhere, especially in warmer climates like California.

Although the Mourning Cloak butterfly isn’t on the endangered species list yet, there are many that are.  The Mourning Cloak butterfly will be back for another season in August – lets hope the birds aren’t as hungry in the summer!

I would love to hear your butterfly stories and experiences, so leave a comment below.  Until next time, have a great day 🙂