Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Longest Blog Post Ever Written about Mexican Jumping Beans

I can’t help myself. I have to buy them every time.

When you live in Southern California, you eventually find yourself in Tijuana, wandering the streets looking at the same old Mexican tchotchkes (is that mutually exclusive?) that they sell trying to pull in the tourist money.

I usually come home with nothing much except a bottle of real vanilla extract, a hangover and occasionally the warm Mexican blankets that are so nice for gifts for those loved ones living back east in the snowy tundra.

But then I discovered them. And how could I resist?

Mexican Jumping Beans, baby!!

For a buck, you get the pleasure of holding the little plastic box in your pocket that you can pull out at any time and watch them hop around making that little tap-tap sound as they dance. I went to Mexico recently with Noah and my dad when he was in town recently. And I turned Noah on to the little buggers. We got a box for us, and one for my niece Erin, who had to skip the trip because of a nasty fever.

But this time I learned all about them from a little sign in one of the shops explaining the life-cycle (illustrations here). It goes something like this…

Apparently, it all begins with the butterfly, who lays eggs on one particular kind of bush in Mexico. When the eggs hatch, the little larvae crawl to the seeds of the bush and eat their way in (although there is no hole that I can see). There, they eat the meat on the inside of the seed, and grow in size. They spin a web, and the jumping is believed to be caused by the wormy yanking on the little threads. They believe that the jumping is to scare the birds away from the seeds which have since fallen to the ground from the bush. Then, in about three or four months, when there is no more room in the Inn, the little guy eats his way out of the seed and makes a little cocoon. And from there, he comes out as a butterfly that goes off looking for another Jumping Bean bush to lay eggs on. (I guess I should have made my protagonist a female…)

Well! In the past, I eventually notice that the beans no longer jump, and they end up in the garbage can. This time, it occurred to me to keep a closer eye out for anything that looked like a cocoon. So, we kept them on the kitchen windowsill in their box, ready to open it should any kind of cocoon appear.

At times I thought that the beans no longer moved. I figured they were duds and had died. Too warm, not enough air, whatever. But then a couple days later one or two would be twitching again.

Today, I found the beans out on the window shelf where I had left them wondering if they had needed any sun or fresh air and considered leaving the box lid open, but thought they would get knocked and spill in the dirt.

A couple hours later, Noah comes home from preschool and sees the box, picks it up and says, “Mommy, we have to open the box!” and before I could kneel all the way down to him, he had popped the thing open and there was a little grey thing there in the box, which then launched itself up and hurtled into Noah’s neck. He was startled and swatted at it, but missed, and the little tiny butterfly jumped off again and flew up around the backyard and away!!!

(Can I just say here, I am SO FREAKING GLAD that Noah did not crush the little guys wings, resulting in him falling to the cement and flopping around wildly in pain, because THEN what do you do? Teach the kid about putting things out of their misery? Try to keep him from feeling bad for maiming the thing he had been watching and nurturing?)

Now, I have to say, I would hardly call the thing a butterfly. It looked like a little stealth bomber moth in gray. And luckily, after unfolding its wings, it still was big enough to fit in the little box with five other jumping beans. But man, it was itching to get out!

So we peered into the little box and saw what was supposed to be the “cocoon” but looked more like a tiny little cicada shell (if you didn’t grow up back east, check this out!). And then, we found the bean that he had sprung from with a rather sizable and perfectly round hole on one end!

I did a little research and learned that you should spritz them with water once a week. Give them a good soaking and then dry them with a paper towel.

My hubby, always the kind one, decided to give them a little housing upgrade and cleaned out a salsa jar and put an old sock over it for (not quite fresh) air. This way, they can have SOME sort of life until we notice the little buggers again.


SoundHunter said...

Wow, I had these a few times as a kid, and we just threw them out too. Poor suckers, this must happen to them all of the time. Fascinating post, I wandered in here from the pioneer woman's comment box btw.

SoundHunter said...

Oh, also, I enter contets, but haven't checked out the blog contest thing yet, hmmm. I just won something today, from the Sharpie marker company, a big arse set of multi colored fine line sharpie markers and a nice leather bound spiral notebook. I just do web contests, but I'll have to check out the blog ones.

Mercy said...

ewe. I'm sorry, but when the little winged creature came out of our jumping bean I thought it was really gross. Maybe because I wasn't expecting it and it was in my husband's pocket at the time? I don't know, but it made the whole idea of the cute little jumping bean seem yucky. Seeing your post on the whole thing kind of gave me a heart for the little buggers.

I might just have to pick them up once more the next time we travel over the border again.

Take Care,

Anonymous said...

That's kind of gross.

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Jenny said...

so much fun! reminds me of having Mexican jumping beans as a child. I found them again recently at