Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's been just about a month since my last post and in that month the weird, white larvae in a jar on the counter made it's last transformation in the long trip from meal worm to darkling beetle. The creature, christened "Isabella" by my daughter started as "live bait" about two months ago where she (he?) was scooped unceremoniously from a cardboard box full of wheat germ at our school science fair into a chinese takeout container held by my beaming child.

Oh, glorious worm.

When the take-out container seemed less than escape proof, we moved the little guy (gal?) to a spaghetti sauce jar. We were careful to move the remaining wheat germ (food and housing) and also added one leaf of lettuce from our garden.

The next day the worm had disappeared beneath the lettuce and for two days, he didn't come out.

"He's dead," my husband said.

After a quick Google, I returned certain. Meal worms are stiff and dark brown when dead. Ours, though unmoving, was still creamy colored.

In a few days, the critter emerged sporting longer front legs.

A few weeks later, things looked bad.

"He's dead," my husband said.

"Her name is Isabella," my daughter declared. "He's just fine. You don't know anything."

I hoped for the best and added a newly harvested baby carrot for good measure.

Eventually the worm turned into the kind of creature I'm certain Stan Winston turned to when looking for inspiration. If it had been any bigger than an inch, I'm not sure I could have slept through the night. Pale and still, with a bulbous head and tapered abdomen, it slept all day, it's arms folded tight over it's chest.

"It's dead," my husband said, holding the jar close to peer inside. Moments later, he shrieked and returned the thing to the counter. "It moved."

For days, it lay in a kind of half suspension, twitching as though dreaming of... what? A juicy leaf, a pile of wheat germ? Another meal worm? Longing for legs, longing for movement?

And one day it emerged from the pale crust, a beetle. Rosy colored at first, but totally beetle like in every way. No sign of the worm left at all.

"It's the best day ever," my daughter announced. "It's water day, I'm wearing my favorite dress and my darkling beetle has hatched!"

It was a good day. There have been lots of them.

We let the beetle stay in the jar until it turned black. We celebrated his arrival with a wedge of fresh peach and then we set him free in the garden to go on about his way.

This summer both of my kids are growing. The inch of bare skin between the waistband of Sadie's skirt and the hem of her shirt let me know just how much. Theo's lost a front tooth and the gap gains him a year at least. I'm a year and a month older -- more flexible and less. Looking around at the changes and marveling at how fast time passes and how glad I am to be here no matter what.

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