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The Felix Files: Part One

Students may bring a pretend or a real insect to show-and-tell.

A real insect for show-and-tell. As soon as I read that in the preschool newsletter, I knew it must be done, and I knew what sort of insect it should be. A local reptile store carried hornworms, sold as feeders.

"What are we going to do with a caterpillar?" My husband asked.

"They're supposed to be really nutritious for bearded dragons. We'll give him to my sister's lizard after show-and-tell."

My daughter couldn't have been more delighted when she came home from the reptile store with her dad, the proud new owner of a hornworm caterpillar. I realized we needed to keep this thing alive at least until show-and-tell the next day, so I did some quick research and found that they love pepper and tomato plants. Fortunately, we have pepper plants in our garden, so I set the caterpillar up with some nice leaves in a plastic container with plentiful air holes.

"His name is Felix, mom!"

Felix? She already named the thing? How were we going to feed it to a lizard when it was named Felix?

The next day I went to freshen up Felix's leaves and saw...a very limp, lifeless caterpillar. Oh no, I thought. He died. Right before show-and-tell. YOU HAD ONE JOB, FELIX! I picked him up and examined him, with my daughter looking on sadly. "Goodbye..." she said, in the most pitiful, heartbreaking voice.

I tried to set Felix back down...but he was gripping my finger. The wicked beast was playing dead the whole time.

As my daughter bounced up to her classroom with Felix in tow, her teacher exclaimed, "Oh, good! I was counting on you to bring a live one." I'm not sure what that says about my daughter (or maybe about her parents) that her teacher expected her to be the one bringing a live bug.

Show-and-tell came and went and was a huge success. The kids gathered around Felix and took turns petting him. They even took him to show the class next door. He pooped. Now the entire preschool knows what caterpillar poop looks like.

After school my daughter took Felix out to the grass for some sunshine. He was "dead" again, but livened up pretty quickly when we put him in the grass with some leaves. He sure could eat! It was fascinating to watch him munch through the edge of a leaf like it was corn on the cob.

"So, about the caterpillar," I said to my husband when he got home, "He did a good job at show-and-tell. He can't be lizard food."

"Well...I figured not. Not when she's so attached to him already."

Yes. Keep him alive for our daughter. Not because I find him really cool and kind of cute in his weird little caterpillar way. Nothing like that.

A week and counting past show-and-tell, and I was still going out every few hours to get fresh leaves for a ravenous caterpillar. My daughter was still taking him out to play in the grass and talking to him about life. He was still dying on us every time we opened his cage.

The new plan is to see him through his metamorphosis and then release him. I think he deserves that.

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