Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Painted Lady Butterfly vs American Lady Butterfly

Which butterfly is pictured in these photos?

These two butterflies confuse many of us. They are two totally different butterflies that are in the same genus of classification. The first photo is of the American Painted Lady, Vanessa virginiensis. The second photo is of the Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui.

Many people who raise Painted Lady butterflies will identify an American Lady incorrectly. They resemble but are not the same at all. The caterpillars look very different from each other.

The first photograph is of a Painted Lady caterpillar. The second photograph is of an American Lady caterpillar.

Although the caterpillars cannot be confused easily, the adult butterflies are easily confused. What looks like a Painted Lady butterfly may actually be an American Lady butterfly and vice versa.

In the same way we confuse butterflies, it is easy to confuse the heart and intent of people.

Jesus had people misunderstanding the intent of his heart. I have tried to learn from the things Jesus said and did. Sometimes he defended himself while other times he was silent. It's hard to know when to speak and when to be silent.

Jesus faced what would be (for most of us) a very heart-breaking situation. His very friends said that he was deranged and came to take him by force.  (Mark 3)

In some situations we are often only presented with part of what we should know. Someone may give twisted or incomplete facts about another person. This can cause a person to look like he/she is not the person he/she really is inside. Other times people will intentionally tell absolute untruths about another person.

When I am friends with two people who are in disagreement, I find it heartbreaking. It is especially difficult when I realize that one of them is deliberately trying to make the other person to appear to be of evil intent. But who do I believe when it is not a situation where facts are provable?

The hard part is for those who are friends of both parties - who do they believe?

No matter how many people call an American Lady a Painted Lady, it does not make it a Painted Lady. It remains an American Lady.

No matter what is said about anyone that is untrue, it does not change the truth about that person. This is a lesson that I learned from these two butterflies.

When I am the person being misrepresented, it is easier to handle when I realize that nothing anyone can say changes what I am. As Popeye says, "I yam what I yam and that's what I yam".

Through this I've learned to pray for those who speak against me. This is taught in at least two places in the New Testament. What peace it brings!

I have also been the one caught 'in between' in friendships and business relationships. I have believed the wrong things about others many times, because I blindly believed to what others have said. I understand why it is easy to believe the wrong things about people. I thank God that He has forgiven me for the times I've misjudged others.

Matthew 18:15-17

And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he hear thee not, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established. And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church:

Mark 3:21

And when those who belonged to Him (His kinsmen) heard it, they went out to take Him by force, for they kept saying, He is out of His mind (beside Himself, deranged)!

Matthew 5:44

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Luke 6:28

Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

I thank God for those who have worked to bring peace as much as possible in difficult situations.

Protective Cocoon

Moth Cocoon - Opened and Pupa Removed

How cool can that be? A moth cocoon can be carefully cut open and the moth pupa removed without harming it. Although it is commonly thought that the pupa must stay inside the cocoon for the moth to emerge and be healthy, it simply isn’t true.

Removing the pupa renders the value of the cocoon to nearly nothing, as far as the value of the silk itself. From the moth's point, it seems to simply be a protective 'home' for the pupa. On rare occasions, a moth caterpillar will create a cocoon and pupate outside of it. Other times one will fail to make a cocoon. Normally, the caterpillar makes the cocoon and pupates inside it.

There are poems and prose that state that if a cocoon is opened the adult moth will be unhealthy or won't live. So what do we believe? It's hard to know what truth is and what isn't in this world. Research may turn up many pages on the internet that support that erroneous claim.

We've removed many pupae from cocoons. A cocoon is simply something like a sleeping bag. In nature, though, these pupae would be vulnerable outside its cocoon. Predators and parasitoids would have better access to it.

In nature, moth caterpillars that pupate outside the cocoon would have less chance of survival. They are outside the protection of the cocoon.

It makes me wonder - what is my cocoon? Where is my safety? Am I making choices that place me outside my cocoon of safety?

A bible study quickly reveals the source of our protection and our safety. First, God himself.  Second, good counselors. 

Proverbs 18:10

The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

Proverbs 21:31

The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.

Proverbs 24:6

For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.

Proverbs 29:25

The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.

Less than the best?

White Peacock butterflies are beautiful.  Rather small, flitting close to the ground, they stay near damp areas where their host plants grow.  Caterpillars of this species eat several plants; water hyssop, frog fruit, plantain, and green shrimp are a few of their host plants.

While growing water hyssop for these butterflies, we often propagate new plants for the females to lay eggs upon.  The plants are started in four inch pots in the greenhouse.  As soon as they grow roots, they're fertilized.  Well, most are fertilized!  Every now and then one of the pots are skipped when we add fertilizer to the pots.

Both of these plants were started the same day.  It's easy to see which plant was fertilized and which wasn't fertilized.  Without proper nutrients, they sure will not grow as well or as healthy.  If someone didn't know what a healthy water hyssop plant looks like, they may not realized that one is malnourished.  Yet next to a healthy plant, anyone can see which onet hasn't had the proper nutrients and stands out like a sore thumb.

Things like this remind us how important proper nutrients are for life.  Customers and caterpillars both should have the plant on the left, not the plant on the right.  Yet both customers and caterpillars would rather have the plant on the right rather than no plant at all!  We all tend to settle for less than perfect when we don't see or cannot obtain what is perfect.

It makes me stop and wonder; where am I settling for 'less than the best'?  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Butterfly Praise

Butterflies are fantastic; beautiful, graceful, and captivating.

We are surrounded by butterflies during the spring, summer, and fall. They change from a caterpillar to a chrysalis and emerge with wings, flying high out of our reach. They visit our gardens, landing on plants just a few feet away, and drink nectar from flowers. We can't help but stop to give God the glory for these beautiful creatures.
Just like when I'm with butterflies, I find that after I've been talking to certain people in my life, I find myself often thanking and/or praising God because of them.
Watching butterflies causes me to praise God. Thinking of others often causes me to praise God. I have to ask myself if I live my life in a manner to cause others to praise God because of me. Does anyone ever leave my presence giving praise to God because of what I am?

• Have I made someone’s life easier today?

• Have I helped someone who is going through a difficult time?

• Have I been a blessing to someone?

I should start my day by asking God to make me a blessing to someone else and for my life to bring praise to him.

Galatians 1:24

"And they praised God because of me."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hidden Beauty

Hidden beauty is all around us.  Things that we consider drab are quite often actually stunningly beautiful.  We just don't look at the whole picture.

The Great Leopard Moth is one example.  When this moth is sitting still, it's a simple white and black moth. 

But when the wings are moved to the side, bright sunlight reveals an iridescent metallic blue on the topside of its abdomen. This blue is rarely visible. The brilliant blue stays hidden under the wings.
Another moth with hidden surprises is the Io moth. When resting during the day or at night, it's a rust or yellow colored moth, depending upon whether it is a male or female.

When the upper wings are moved to the side, its large eye spots are visible.

The rust colored moth is a female. The yellow moth is a male.
The male Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly is a drab dark black butterfly until it is seen in bright light.  The light refraction reveals a bright metallic blue color that is absolutely beautiful.

This hidden beauty makes me wonder about other people.  Am I missing some of the ‘beauties’ of life by looking only from one angle or only in certain lights?  Some people show their real beauty when times get rough.  Some show their beauty when someone is in need.  At unexpected times, people show their beauty in different and unexpected ways.

There are those who value outward beauty and later find that inward beauty is more important. Most of us fall into this group of people. We learn about real beauty when we are purchasing a sofa (beautiful but uncomfortable), a house (gorgeous but drafty and with bugs), or meeting a person (beautiful/handsome but has a nasty nature).

So what is beauty?

The greatest beauty in this world is Jesus. But in person, he was not beautiful. Man's renderings in ink, charcoal, paint, and every other media illustrates Jesus as a fairly to very good-looking man. Yet according to Isaiah 52:2 he was not a good-looking man. "... there is no beauty that we should desire him".

The real beauty of Jesus was not that of facial features of physical form. His real beauty was his love for his Father and for us; mankind. Real beauty is God's love.

It's the manifestation of God's love in people that is valued the most in difficult times. When things are going good, we may want to be around the things that are more visibly beautiful. But when rough times hit, we want the true beauty of the actions of love in our lives.

What actions?
  • bringing a meal when we're unable to cook
  • paying our bills when we're unable to work
  • holding our hands when they're empty because a loved one was taken from us
  • praying for us when we're in need
  • spending time with us when we're lonely
  • picking up our prescriptions when we're unable to drive
  • caring for our loved ones when we are unable to do so
  • sometimes it is simply holding a door open for us with a smile and a 'good morning'
  • (the list is as endless as the needs of mankind)
After appreciating the beauty of God's love, we should first focus on obtaining the true inward beauty of that love within ourselves.  Second, we should focus on appreciating the other real beauty around us, the beauty inside our fellow man.

Isaiah 52:2
... there is no beauty that we should desire him.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Love Butterflies?

Beautiful butterflies, flying here and there, drinking nectar from this flower and that flower .....
...... or are they?  These little brown critters can't be butterflies.  After all ....

..... we all know that butterflies are bright and colorful!  Of course .....

.... these little brown critters can't be butterflies.

We all have been taught dissimilar things and have different preconceived notions; from food to eat to how to behave in public to what a butterfly is.  Very few people would realize that all of the above photos are of butterflies.  As humans, we tend to place value on bright colorful butterflies and dismiss dark, dull, and small butterflies.

Look at the photos below. We normally give more attention and value to bright colorful daytime butterflies and ignore the huge beautiful night-time moths like these. Yes, all photos below are of moths.

We tend to ‘love’ only certain butterflies and moths and not other butterflies and moths. We ‘love’ many creatures in varying degrees depending entirely on the way they look or act.

If a little tattered brown Duskywing butterfly could become a large majestic Monarch butterfly, most humans would 'love' it more.

What if God loved like we do, his love depending upon how we look or act? I'm so glad that God already loves us totally, fully, and completely.
We can't do anything to cause God to love us more.

He loved us so much that he planned for a way for us (mankind) to be reunited with him.  He loved us that much BEFORE we accepted him.  Love can't be greater than that.  He can't love us more if we're bright and beautiful, with fewer tatters.  He wouldn’t love us more if we spend more time in prayer and studying his word, drawing closer to him and loving him more. He won't love us more if we help others more.  He won't love us more if we love others more. He may approve of our actions more but not love us more. 
We can love him more but he can't love us more.  He always has loved us to the very maximum that anyone or anything can be loved.

We can put ourselves in a position where WE can love God more.  WE can learn from God more.  We can be closer to God.  But God has already loved us and does love us to the extreme.

Romans 5:8
"But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Monarch Cremaster SEM

Every year, millions of Monarch caterpillars change into chrysalises.  During this change, the caterpillar literally sheds its skin and becomes a chrysalis.  As it slips out of its skin, it must let go with its legs and hold on with its cremaster, the black stem at the top of the chrysalis.

The two lowest black dots of a Monarch chrysalis are called 'holdfast tubercles'.   A pupating caterpillar/chrysalis is literally suspended by two tiny holdfast tubercles for a moment as it withdraws its cremaster from underneath its old skin and grasps its silk button with the tip of its cremaster.  Long ago scientists discovered that the tip of the cremaster is covered with tiny hooks.  These hooks become tangles with the loops of the silk pad it had made before pupating.
This step is critical.  If the cremaster doesn't grasp the silk button and falls onto most surfaces, it ruptures.  The chrysalis breaks open upon impact with the surface below it.  We still often hold our breath as we watch this critical moment during pupation ... STRESS ... will it make the reach?  Will someone bump the table?  Will wind blow at the wrong time?  Will an animal pass by and knock it off the stem before it finishes? 

We were given Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) images of the tip of a Monarch cremaster, along with permission to use the images.  This is an image of a Monarch cremaster with its hooks locked into the loops of its silk button.  No wonder it holds so well! 

The cremaster's hooks and silk pad's loops are much like Velcro®.  Unlike  Velcro®, the hooks and loops make a connection so tight that if one simply pulls at the chrysalis, the chrysalis will break before the hooks pull loose from the silk pad. This protects the cremaster from being blown loose in storms. 

It is good to be reminded again that God was there first.  He created everything.   How wonderful it is to rest in the knowledge that such a God is still here, handling things from year to year, month to month, week to week, day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute, and even second to second.  What a stress relief!

Genesis 1: 20-25
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.