Sunday, November 16, 2008

Spider Webs & Butterflies

Viceroy butterfly caught in a spider web

Spider webs are sad for butterflies. Many butterflies lose their lives in spider webs.

A few days ago I walked into an area of the garden and saw this sight; a Viceroy butterfly caught in a spider web. As usual, my camera was strapped to me and I stopped to take a photo. I reached up to remove the web and realized this Viceroy was still alive! I gently removed the webbing and let it fly. No problem; it was READY to go! Normally the butterfly is struggling and I know it is alive without touching it.

I thought about all the butterflies I find in webs that are dead; obviously dead.

tawny emperor butterfly caught in a spider web

As I thought about the butterfly over the next fews days, I thought about all the butterflies that struggled to get loose and either was killed by the spider or, if the web was old, just starved in the web. Yes, they're 'just insects' but I have a strong emotional attachment to these winged beauties! I always am thrilled when I know that I saved one.

'Saved' one. I keep thinking how Christians use words that people who did not grow up in a Christian church or family have trouble understanding. Christian terms are often like a foreign language. 'Saved' is a Christian term, too.

Christians say, "I'm saved" and to those who don't understand Christian language, it sounds very odd. What are we saved from? How are we saved?

Having grown up in a Christian home where God was as real as anything else in this world, I was kept from a lot of things that many people have had to battle. But even so, I was born with a carnal nature; selfish and without thoughts for God or others. People ask me about that; what do I mean that I was born selfish? The answer is simple. Watch any child. 'Mine' is often the first word a younger child learns. Older siblings tend to take their toys because the younger one isn't strong enough to hold on to it. Older siblings often clearly show that selfish 'me' nature.

Selfishness is normal; for most children, sharing is a taught action.

A child that doesn't throw a temper tantrum, doesn't take what doesn't belong to her, that does her chores, that never lies, that .... well, the list goes on ... that child doesn't exist. Every child has to learn to fit into society and live by the rules of unselfishness. That's the carnal nature that we are all born with. Yes, some are naturally more generous than others but even so, every one is born with the 'me' attitude.

I'm thankful that I have been 'saved'. Once I was old enough to understand about God and Jesus, I had the choice of turning from the nature that was natural in me and to ask for forgiveness and ask God to lead me for the rest of my life. Learning to leave the old nature behind was/is a slow process. Even now, at 53, I find the old nature is still here. (Especially when chocolate is around! Grin) But I know that God will welcome me when I die - to join him for eternity. Things will be the way HE intended it from the beginning!

I'm thankful for the one who 'saved' me.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Microscopic Killers - Ophryocystis electroskirrha

Monarch Butterfly Danaus Plexippus

Disease is a nasty part of a butterfly's world. A glance at a Monarch butterfly will not always reveal whether it is diseased or not. Sometimes it takes a microscope to make that determination.
Monarch Butterfly Scales

The touch of a piece of clear tape to the abdomen of a Monarch butterfly removes some of its scales. The loss of those few scales does not harm the butterfly. A look through the microscope shows us a world we cannot see with our naked eye; scales and more.   
OE spores on Monarch butterfly

One terrible disease that Monarch butterflies contract is Ophryocystis electroskirrha (OE). OE infection can be light to heavy. Heavy infection can cause the butterfly to die. Many Monarch butterflies in the wild live without problem with heavy OE infection. The photo above shows OE spores on and among a Monarch's scales. This Monarch was heavily diseased. The spores look like small dark footballs. A spore is, simply put, a disease seed. Under the right conditions it will 'sprout' and grow.

The only way caterpillars can contract OE is to swallow one or more spores. Over 100 spores can fit on one butterfly scale. A butterfly chrysalis or adult cannot contract OE although the adult is the carrier of the spores. The photo below is of a Monarch egg with one scale on it, left behind when the egg was laid. This one scale may have over 100 OE spores on it.

Monarch butterfly egg with scale

At a butterfly farm, farmers often wash Monarch eggs in a light bleach solution. This washing operation does not harm the eggs or caterpillars inside the eggs. It does kill OE spores. Because a hatchling caterpillar eats its eggshell, if a spore is on the egg and the hatchling swallows it, it will contract OE. If eggs are washed with a mild solution of bleach, the spores are killed.
Killed OE spores

The photo above is of OE spores in a light bleach solution. Bleach has killed some of the spores, breaching their cuticles and destroying the spores themselves.
This started me thinking of how many things in my life won't hurt me until I 'swallow' it. These things are all around me and it’s my choice whether to 'eat / swallow' them or not. The caterpillar doesn't have the knowledge that it is swallowing an OE spore and does not have a choice in the matter. I usually have the knowledge when I'm 'swallowing' something I shouldn't swallow.
I 'swallow' things that come from within me and from outside of me. What kinds of things do I find myself 'swallowing' that I shouldn't?
Unrighteous anger and resentment are two things that I ‘swallow’. These things come naturally into all our minds. A thought is like a spore. It is when I dwell on a bad situation that I have started 'swallowing' these 'spores'. Dwelling on a bad situation can cause that can create unrighteous anger or resentment. It is when I dwell on them that they start to grow inside me up to the point that they can take over my life. There is a righteous anger - and there is an unrighteous anger. Anger itself is not sin; it's the type of anger and what I do with it. (Psalm 4:4) I learned not to 'swallow' this by trying to make peace with people who tend to make me angry. If that does not work, I simply try to ignore their efforts to do whatever would make me angry. Once I refuse to 'swallow' anger and resentment, I find myself praying for the other person and it becomes hard to become angry and resentful at someone when I realize how much they need prayer. It also makes me aware of how graceful others have been when they prayed for me rather than becoming angry or taking offense.
Thanklessness is a horrible disease. When I go through my life without looking around and thanking others, I've swallowed the spore of thanklessness.
Pride can be another disease. Praise is not bad for any of us. It can help us as long as we realize that God is the only source of all good things. When we are obedient, we are acting as a part of the body of Christ. He is doing good things through us or giving us good things. Believing that anything good is of me and forgetting that anything good within me is from God, that is swallowing the spore. Praise is good as long as we keep it flowing, up to the right source, God. When I allow it to sit in me it will cause me to become diseased with this horrible 'disease'; unrighteous pride.

Mark 7 20-23
And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."

Psalm 4:4
Be angry, and do not sin ...

Friday, November 14, 2008

They are what they eat; Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly Caterpillars

cloudless sulphur butterfly caterpillar larva green and yellow

They say 'You are what you eat'. These caterpillars prove it to be true! Cloudless Sulphur caterpillars that eat green leaves of their host plant (Cassia and Senna plants) are green while caterpillars that eat the flowers of their host plant are the color of the flowers.

yellow caterpillar larva cloudless sulphur butterfly

Part of the fun is that the markings on a caterpillar after it turns to yellow are different than when it was green. If it starts eating green leaves again, it will turn green again in a day or two. The markings change back to normal markings on a green caterpillar.

cloudless sulphur butterfly green caterpillar larva

Even small caterpillars turn color when they eat blooms.

Cloudless sulphur butterfly yellow and green caterpillar larvae

I've found this to be true in my mind. Whatever my thoughts are feeding on is what I become. If I am resentful and thinking of negative things, I become negative. If I am thinking of good things, I become happy and giving.

Some negative things are realities of life; the news is full of horrible happenings. To be aware of these things and to do what I can as well as pray for these situations is one thing. To dwell on them to the point that they make me depressed is another.

When negative things happen to me or people I love, it can be hard to not become negative. I found the key is to feed on positive things even in hard times. Some of the very positive things is heaven and Jesus.

When all else fails, I try to remember Romans 8:28. For those who love God, all things work together for good. That doesn't mean that I won't become terribly sick or even a quadriplegic. It doesn't mean that I won't lose someone (or several people) who are near and dear to me. What it means is that God will work through those things for good.

A wonderful day for me was when I realized that Psalms 23 doesn't say "You keep me from walking through the valley of the shadow of death" it says "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death".

Even in that valley, God comforts me with the promise that all things are working together for the good and that heaven awaits those who love Him.

Psalms 23:4
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Butterfly Hair

monarch butterfly 'hair' isn't hair, it is a type of scales

While doing a presentation at a school in Ocala, Springs Elementary, I was asked by the students if butterflies had hair. I was totally stumped. New to butterflies, I had seen the 'hair' on lots of butterflies, including Monarchs (photo above) and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (photo below). I was not sure what it was myself!

eastern tiger swallowtail scales on its body resemble hair

I had to admit that I didn't know exactly what the 'hair' was on a butterfly but I would certainly get back with them. My first step after arriving back home was to check my facts. I then wrote to the class to explain that no, butterflies do not have hair.

Instead, they have several types of scales and one of these types resembles hair.

This reminds me again of how easy it is for me to be fooled by things/people who are not what they seem to be.

And I am reminded to beware - I find myself deceiving myself sometimes, not wanting to face truth.

One thing for sure; anything that uses deception is not what I should embrace. God never uses deception. He IS truth.

II Cor 11 : 13-15
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for even Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light. It is no great thing therefore if his ministers also fashion themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works.

I John 1:8
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and(V) the truth is not in us.

John 8 : 44-47
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God."

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.