Dear Lola,

I’ve been told I spend too much time thinking about silly things that no one else cares about. So, in an effort to spare my friends and family another weird night, I bring my question to you. Do caterpillars know they are going to become butterflies one day?


Weird Wonderer

Dear Weird Wonderer,

Your question sparked a serious case of déjà vu that led me to believe I had already answered this question for another reader. I immediately assigned my Research Thumbs, aka the Mommybeast, to tracking this possibility down. After an exhaustive search of my Dear Lola archives, she confirmed I had never before been asked this question by a reader.

However, this is where the plot thickens.

During the deep dive into the blog archives, we unearthed an older cartoon strip where Mommybeast and I pondered the origins of the word caterpillar. We also unearthed an even older blog post where Mommybeast pondered this exact same question of caterpillars and their knowledge of butterfly life. However, she rambled on for many paragraphs and never came to a conclusion.

Mommybeast is a ponderer without the canine wisdom necessary for accurate results.

I have decided to cover this topic and clear up the confusion once and for all. I will also address a few more pressing caterpillar concerns because whether or not they know they will morph into a butterfly is actually the least of their worries. For example, does the butterfly remember being a caterpillar or must they relearn everything once more? Do they recognize their caterpillar friends who have yet to take the transformative nap? More importantly, how exactly would the caterpillar brain know how to operate a set of wings?! 

I could dedicate a week of thoughts to the courageous caterpillar.

Trapped in a chubby body, the caterpillar dedicates their life to snacking. Inching along one cautious step at a time, terrified that one mistake will have them falling off the tree branch with no safety net below. The caterpillar then eats a bunch of leaves without even a drop of salad dressing to make it palatable. Reason enough to want to morph into another creature. One night, overcome by extreme fatigue, the caterpillar decides to take a nap – with a blanket fortress to keep them warm.

I have never woken up as a dinosaur after my lunchtime nap.

Maybe I need to add a few more blankets to create the perfect canine cocoon. But I digress. I can say with some degree of confidence that the caterpillar does not know they will become a butterfly. Imagine if the chubby worm knew all along that they would eventually be able to fly. Could they resist the temptation to give it a try before rolling themselves up into a cocoon? Based on the caterpillar’s voracious appetite, self-control seems unlikely. In a bid to save themselves the effort of walking, the chubby caterpillar would attempt to fly a few days too early – leaving a horrific scene of splattered caterpillar guts all over the sidewalks.

So, let’s rewind to the pivotal moment in the caterpillar’s life.

Once ensconced in the warm and snuggly cocoon, the caterpillar brain undergoes a transformation as shocking as the one to their appearance. A movie produced and directed by Mother Nature herself plays on a loop until the caterpillar has a full understanding of their new role in life. Armed with their previous knowledge of the world, the butterfly is equipped with the figure of a supermodel and guidance in using it to their advantage – but not before they have a bit of fun.

The butterfly takes to the air, showing off for the chubby friends still wobbling on little legs below.

Filled with bitterness of the wasted time spent wobbling on shaky branches, the butterfly hits the skies with a vengeance. We should all be thankful that butterflies don’t have stingers – bitterness and butt swords are a lethal combination!

Now, Dear Reader, I gift you with your own transformative nap.

Pay no attention to those who say you spend too much time on silly thoughts. Silly thoughts and weird nights have led to some of the greatest breakthroughs since the dawn humankind. If not for silly thoughts, humans would still be sitting together in a cold cave each night, unaware that fire would keep them warm. If not for silly thoughts, humans would walk everywhere, oblivious to the fact that a wheel could save them from daily aches. If not for silly thoughts, humans would be stuck on the shore, unable to discover the mysteries of the deep blue sea. Every wonder that can be found in the modern world was at one time a silly thought to the majority of the human population.

Dream big butterfly, but don’t forget you were once a weird caterpillar.


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