COPD: Honoring Loved Ones with Monarch Butterflies

  • Raising Monarchs is a favorite summer activity of people with COPD because it’s fascinating, fun, easy – and inspiring. In Part I we learned that even if you are physically limited by your COPD you can still experience the joy of raising Monarch butterflies. We explored the first two phases of the Monarch lifecycle, Egg and Caterpillar. In this sharepost  you’ll see the caterpillar become a butterfly and discover how, as he flies, you can honor the memory of a lost loved one. Watch for Breath Saving Tips (BST in BOLD print) so you can enjoy your butterfly with breath to spare!

    Stage III: Chrysalis (Pupa)

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    As soon as a caterpillar is done growing and has reached his full length and weight, he will attach himself to the top of jar and hang in the shape of the letter “J.” Your caterpillar has now eaten all the milkweed he is going to eat and he is getting ready to form a chrysalis.  It takes just a matter of hours for this dramatic transformation. The monarch chrysalis looks like a beautiful jewel. It is a creamy jade green color with shiny gold dots and trim. Once inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar is rapidly changing, undergoing a remarkable transformation to become a beautiful butterfly. This process takes 8-12 days. At this point your former caterpillar is not going anyplace so you no longer need a cover on the jar.

    Stage IV: Adult Butterfly
    Finally, when the caterpillar is almost ready to emerge as a butterfly, the color of the chrysalis will turn from jade green to black. Actually, the outside membrane of the chrysalis is not really black, but has become transparent. The black you are seeing is the butterfly itself, folded up tightly. In fact, if you look very carefully you may be able to see the orange and black design of the wings. When the chrysalis appears black, you can expect your butterfly to appear within about 24 hours.

    If you’re lucky, you’ll be there to experience this miracle, to be there as your caterpillar emerges from the chrysalis. Coming out of a chrysalis is hard work and after he’s come into sight, your butterfly will have to rest for a while. When the butterfly comes out of the chrysalis his wings are soft and folded. Hanging upside down, he will begin to pump his wings in order to get them ready for flying.  If you have the time, this is a wonderful chance to stay with your brand new butterfly as he clings to your finger and pumps his wings. BST: Sit in a chair outside, near your milkweed patch, or any bush or plant, relax and enjoy the experience! If you’re not able sit outside, sit near the door so when your butterfly is ready to take flight, you won’t have far to go.

    Now, here is a special tradition you can take part in – one that will touch your heart. If you’ve lost a friend or loved one in the past year (maybe a friend with COPD), now is the time to pass on to your beautiful butterfly the name of that person. Call the butterfly by that name, saying it aloud. Then, when he is ready, and your butterfly flies away, say his name once more and wish him well in your own special way; with a simple prayer or asking for a blessing to be upon him. With this act, small but powerful, your loved one will live on and the life cycle can begin again.

  • I hope you enjoyed this Monarch butterfly experience. Here are additional resources.

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    Raising Monarch Butterflies
    Monarch Butterflies –North America’s Migrating Insects

    Jane M. Martin is a licensed respiratory therapist, teacher and the founder and director of and  the author of Live Your Life With COPD: 52 Weeks of Health, Happiness and Hope and Breathe Better, Live in Wellness: Winning Your Battle Over Shortness of Breath.

Published On: June 06, 2011