Why Our Car Is Chortling 'Merry Chrysalis'

Our compact car gathers no reindeer antlers, no Rudoph nose, no Santa hat. Zero, zip, zilch, nada.

Our HOUSE exudes “Merry Christmas!” but our CAR does not.

It chortles “Merry Chrysalis!”

“Merry Chrysalis?” Yes, thanks to an escapee, a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar, that is either Indiana Jones or Indiana Joan.

Our saga begins at high noon, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. We are transporting a pop-up butterfly habitat containing three life stages of Gulf Fritillary butterflies, Agraulis vanillae, to the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology open house themed “Arthropod Husbandry: Raising Insects for Research and Fun.”

Our family rears butterflies, including Gulf Frits, in our pollinator garden in Vacaville. We happily agree to share with the Bohart Museum. Our “roll call” that day: two dozen Gulf Frit ‘cats, one adult that had just eclosed, and one chrysalis hanging on for dear life on the rim of the habitat.

The Bohart open house goes well. The ‘cats feast on the leaves of their host plant, passionflower vine. Visitors hold and photograph the caterpillars and the chrysalis, admire the reddish-orange Gulf Frit butterfly with its silver spangled wings, and ask questions of the presenter, entomology student Andrew Goffinet. He fields questions on butterflies and how to raise them, drawing in visitors ranging from pre-school to senior citizens.

Toward the end of the open house, a parent asks me if I could "possibly" donate the caterpillars and the habitat to an elementary school classroom.

“Sure," I say. "You can have them--the caterpillars and the habitat. One thing though, the net has a tiny hole on the side. You can just tape it over with duct tape and it will be fine.”

We head home, sans Gulf Frits. We have plenty more.

Days crawl by. End of November. Beginning of December. Now it's Christmas Week. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Yesterday Jack Frost gifts us with ice on the car windows. We head out to the car to defrost the windows, in preparation for our dog's daily trip to the park. We open the back door. As we adjust the disheveled dog blanket on the seat, we happen to look up.

Wait, what's that on the top of the rear window? It's beginning to look a lot like….chrysalis?

Yes, a chrysalis. A Gulf Fritillary chrysalis.

Apparently, on the drive from Vacaville to Davis on Nov. 16, an adventuresome ‘cat had squirmed out of the tiny hole, eventually crawled up the back seat, and wriggled up to the window.

Now what? Big mistake. There's no food here! Nothing to munch, nothing to crunch. No passionflower vine. Maybe I'll just hang out.

The ‘cat forms a chrysalis, a very sickly looking chrysalis, the Tiny Tim of all chrysalids.

All I want for chrysalis is…

We'll see what happens.

Meanwhile, have a very merry Christmas--or if you happen to have a chrysalis hanging out on the rear window of your car this holiday season, have a very, merry chrysalis.