Sunday, December 27, 2009

What is it eating?

While visiting a nursery that had a butterfly exhibit (the exhibit is now closed) Mike, the resident exhibit expert, received a phone call from a local gardener.  The gardener was thrilled to see a caterpillar eating her fennel and she was positive it was a Tiger Swallowtail.  Mike and I both knew that Tiger caterpillars do not eat fennel and had a good idea of what she was bringing for him to see.

As we expected, the caterpillar was an Eastern Black Swallowtail.  The only confusing part, to us, was the fact that she hadn't seen an Eastern Black to know the appearance of a small caterpillar of that species.  It's one of the first that most of us raise on the east coast of the US.

To most of us, when caterpillars of different species resemble each other, we never think too much about it.  Much of our identity of a species is based upon what it is eating. 

When I see a tiny caterpillar on parsley or fennel, I don't even think about a Tiger Swallowtail.  They never eat parsley or fennel; they eat plants such as black cherry, tulip poplar (as in the second photo), or sweet bay.  When I see a tiny caterpillar like the above photo on tulip poplar, I never think of an Eastern Black, although they greatly resemble each other.  Eastern Black caterpillars do not eat tulip poplar.

Once a person looks at the young caterpillars enough, they are easy to identify without a plant, simply from their appearance.  At first glance, though, they do resemble a lot!

Larger caterpillars of these species do not resemble at all!  The larger Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar is striped all over while the larger Tiger Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar is solid green with eye spots on its thorax. 

I realized that humans are quite the same way.  We can tell so much about another person by what they feed upon. 

When someone sees me, what do they see me feed upon?  Do I seek gossip and negativity?  Or do I seek positive food, like clean talk and entertainment? 

The old phrase, "You are what you eat" is quite true. 

So now that I'm thinking about this, I need to think twice about what I feed upon. One thing I should feed upon is just instruction, admonishment, and correction from others.  If I refuse to feed upon correction or spit when it is forced upon me, it cannot nourish me. 

Solomon wrote it well:

Proverbs 10:8
The wise in heart accept commands

Proverbs 10:17
He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Proverbs 12:1
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.

Proverbs 19:16
He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of his ways will die.

Proverbs 20:18
Make plans by seeking advice

Proverbs 21:11
When a wise man is instructed, he gets knowledge.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reflections in a drop of water ...

false foxgloveDew drops and rain drops are beautiful. Gazing into a droplet of water shows the world in a different way. The flower in the dewdrop is a bloom of False Foxglove, a host plant of the Buckeye butterfly. The problem is that the drop of water turns the flower and everything reflected in it totally upside down.

false foxglove and buckeye butterfly caterpillar larvaThis flower (and the caterpillar) are right-side up.

buckeye butterfly(Just to show the result of False Foxglove and the caterpillar, this is a Buckeye, our favorite butterfly.)

yellow flower rain dropAs fun as it is to see the upside down world through raindrops, it's wonderful that we aren't fooled by the effect of droplets of water. But then again, sometimes I do exactly that.

Sometimes I see people and events through raindrops, dewdrops, and teardrops. Tears in someone's eyes, mine or someone else's, can skewer a fact.

It's good to know that there is a REAL truth about everything. That no matter how I look at something, how much it is skewered in the looking, the truth is the truth. Reality is reality. Facts can be twisted to portray things that are not true but no matter how far facts are twisted, the twisting cannot change what is true.

I may believe that something is wrong or right or yes or no or ... whatever ... but the real truth isn't dependant upon how I look at it or how I feel about it.

Whether it's what someone believes about me or I believe about someone else. Whether it's about God or the butterfly or the flower, truth IS. My belief or view doesn't change what truth IS.

I am thankful that God knows the truth and what really IS. He is the one that matters. I pray that God will always open my eyes to real facts and close my eyes to anything skewered and portrayed as fact when it is not true.

Galations 6:7
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Friend or Foe?

yellow chalcid wasp
What a cutie! This chalcid wasp lays eggs in soft chrysalises. Eating it from the inside out, it emerges as an adult wasp leaving behind a dead chrysalis. Good news for the chalcid but bad news for the butterfly!
milkweed assassin bug and yellow chalcid wasp
Then suddenly, another predator spears the chalcid wasp and eats it. What an intricate relationship critters have with each other in nature. The orange milkweed assassin bug kills butterfly caterpillars as well as butterfly parasitoids and butterfly predators.

So what is this orange creature? Is it a butterfly's friend or foe? Someone who first spies the second photo would say it is a friend of a butterfly. But if the same person had seen it killing a caterpillar first, it would say it is a foe.

Like many creatures in the world, the milkweed assassin bug has the ability to be either friend or foe to a butterfly. It must eat but it can live on critters that are not juvenile butterflies.

In the spiritual world, we do have a foe that is a foe - no disguises here! Satan is an enemy of God's people. Even when he sidles up to us with a smile and 'have a good time', he is an enemy. Some enemies are enemies and by their very nature, they cannot be a friend. Ever. Never. No matter what.

I, however, have the same choices as the milkweed assassin bug; to be friend or foe to other people. I can do good or do bad. I can be indifferent or can be helpful. I can ignore or I can pray. I can reach out to lift up or to push under. The choice is mine.

I pray to God I always make the right choices. Sometimes it is hard to know what is the right choice. I pray for wisdom in those situations.

Sometimes it is necessary to act in a 'negative' manner. We shouldn't encourage bad behaviour in children. Punishment and correction is a decision that we must make on occasion. It's difficult when we are angry and it isn't clear in our own minds whether we are motivated by anger or proper motives.

Anger is often thought of as a negative thing. But the truth is that there is righteous anger. Sometimes it is wrong of us if we are not angry. There are times when we should be angry. But anger should never drive me to make a bad decision.

While talking with Stephen about some of these types of decisions I had to make, I realized that it boiled down to one thing; would I make the same decision if I was not angry at that person? Because I am angry at someone doesn't meant that decisions I make are motivated by anger - righteous or unrighteous, justified or not justified, good anger or bad anger - the motivation should be just in God's eyes.

Stephen offers me a flashing warning light; "Check your motives, Edith!" Stephen has worked hard to teach me this lesson. When I wonder about whether I should do or say something, I often give myself that instruction, "Check your motives, Edith, check your motives".

Ephesians 4:26 - 27
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Spider Mites on Passionvine

Spider mites enjoy plants, damaging the leaves to the point that the leaves die. Once spider mites multiply unchecked on a plant, they look like this photo. Spinning silk webbing, they can cover the plant and can cause the death of the plant. Spider mites are especially prolific in hot dry weather/conditions.

Although the plant above looks fairly undamaged under the mites and webbing, the second photo reveals more of the true story of the true state of the plant.

Spider mites are so tiny that they are hard to see with the naked eye. The problem isn't the size of one mite, however, its the damage that many mites can do to a plant. Reproducing prolifically, it doesn't take much time for these critters to multiply to the point that a plant is killed.

Caterpillars of several butterfly species eat passionvine. Gulf Fritillary, Variegated Fritillary, Zebra Longwing, and Julia butterflies are use passionvine or passion flower as a host plant here in the United States.

Passionvine infested with spider mites start by being unhealthy for the caterpillar. The insects themselves can be eaten with the leaf, the mites' excrement is eaten, bacteria and mold that grows on the mites' excrement is also eaten by caterpillars.

While looking at sick caterpillars that had eaten food that wasn't healthy for them, it makes me wonder, am I altering the quality of my friend's food?

I can spend time with or write to people who I know and we could grow from our visit but if I gossip, I've altered the quality of our visit to the point that it can be poisonous.

I can spend time with or write to people but if I have a bad attitude, am angry without a just cause, am unforgiving, am proud, am selfish, and arrogant, I've altered ... and so forth.

Looking at these spider mites make me want to be more careful so I won't harm others or myself by adding unhealthy ingredients into our friendships and relationships.

Proverbs 18:24
There are “friends” who destroy each other ...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Butterfly Photography - NOT!

Well, you wonder, what does THIS photo have to do with butterflies? (Moaning and groaning) A lot!

After surgery for disc removal and bone fusion, this is my neck for a month. After a month, I go into a soft collar. (Note that I did keep butterflies in my life by adding a soft butterfly scarf for comfort.)

My restrictions are:
~ No work except desk work.
~ Collar on during the day.
~ No strenous activity.
~ No bending over.
~ No lifting anything over five pounds.

It's not hard at all but it is frustrating. Although I still carry a camera everywhere, I rarely take a photo. I can't bend my neck, not supposed to bend over, and keep out of rough wooded territory since I can't watch my feet. If I fall, I could cause enough damage to require the surgery to be redone.

I miss my butterflies and caterpillars. I can't feed caterpillars, collect or release butterflies, take many photos, or take my normal fields and woods walks. I am not able to be on the computer as much as I'd like and I can't read unless I hold a book up in front of my face, causing very tired arms.

While thinking about the restrictions of the collar and wondering if people always had the collar after bone fusion in their necks, I realized that as frustrating as it is, I am extremely thankful for the collar.

I realized my collar protects me. It protects me from instinctive reaction to a childs yell (turn to see if he's hurt), people bumping me in a crowded restaurant, the grandchildren playing ball, and other things that could cause the bone to fuse improperly or for Dr. Lora to have to redo the surgery.

It protects me from myself and from others. It allows my bones in my neck to grow properly.

It protects me in the same way God's 'rules' protect me. It protects me from (1) myself, the old carnal sinful nature that is instinctive in all of us. It protects me from (2) others who may lead me into things that are not healthy for a growing child of God. It protects me from (3) Satan, who is always looking for ways to keep me from growing properly.

The more I thought about my collar and its purpose, the more thankful I became for the loving laws of God. Jesus gave us the two greatest commandments, to love God and to love others. If I truly follow those two laws, I will be protected from many dangers in life.

Matthew 22:36-40
"Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Helping Hand for a Fallen Butterfly Chrysalis

Sometimes a pupating caterpillar won't attach itself to it's silk pad. In many cases, it falls and dies. But sometimes it falls and lands softly, still intact but unable to hang. Unless it hangs, it will be deformed and will either die as a chrysalis or will be a deformed butterfly.

The chrysalis on the left hung normally and formed a normal chrysalis. The chrysalis on the right didn't hang normally and is deformed. It will not become a normal adult Monarch butterfly.

When we pick up a freshly pupated chrysalis (which is a caterpillar without its skin), we can handle it gently without harming it. Any roughness will break its soft cuticle and it will start to bleed green blood.

Moving the fresh chrysalis is easy as long as it is handled gently. We can turn the chrysalis over and move it from hand to hand. We find the silk pad it had made for itself and to which it should be attached.

It will flip and twist, instinct telling it that it must attach itself to the silk pad. Because it's future life is hopeless unless it is attached to something immediately, we move it to the silk pad and hold it where its black cremaster will touch the silk pad. When it touches the pad, it will wriggle to work the microscopic hooks into the huge multitude of silk loops that make up its silk pad.

Once it has wriggled a few seconds, we can let go and allow it to hang as if it hadn't fallen. In the next short while, it will slowly reshape into the classic normal Monarch butterfly chrysalis shape. In a few hours, it will harden and be safe to touch and move about if needed. The life of that particular Monarch butterfly has been saved.

Sometimes the chrysalis isn't where it is easy to manipulate or the silk pad is too close to another chrysalis. In that case, we use a cotton ball or other item for it to grasp instead of its silk pad.

It grasps but the hold isn't as strong as if it grasps its own silk pad. The strong silk loops are missing. A loose bit of cotton is a adequate replacement but it is not the ideal item for it to attach itself to ... but better than lying down and becoming deformed.

This brings a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. Without our helping hand, these butterflies would have died.

It makes me think of the helping hands I have had in my life. The first one that comes to mind is Jesus, of course. My thanks start with life itself, moves to salvation (forgiveness), to my husband, family, friends, and even for many strangers!

2 Corinthians 9:15
Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

Ephesians 5:20
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Colossians 3:17
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

1 Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Hebrews 13:15
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

(Text taken from

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dogbane and Starvation

dogbane and milkweed
Monarch caterpillars need milkweed. The only plant they can eat and grow into healthy Monarch butterflies is milkweed.

dogbane and milkweed
There is one plant that resembles milkweed so much that people will cut it to feed to the caterpillars they are raising indoors. That plant is dogbane. The result is starvation. The caterpillars simply will not eat it.

In these photos, the plant on the left if dogbane; resembles milkweed but Monarch caterpillars will not eat it. It takes an experienced eye or an person who has learned in one manner or another to tell the two apart.

Many people have starved their caterpillars to death by giving them dogbane, thinking that they were giving them milkweed.

It started me wondering. Have I 'starved' myself by not feeding on the spiritual equivalent of a Monarch caterpillar's milkweed?

What should I feed upon? Have I left something out?

After going through surgery last week with instructions not to ride in a car for a certain amount of time, I wasn't able to go to church Sunday. Without mentioning it to me beforehand, my husband brought home communion for me. He did this years ago when I was unable to go to church back then for a few weeks.

No, I wouldn't have starved without it but I would have been a bit 'nutritionally' or 'spiritually deficient'.

How wonderful it is to have someone else make sure that I have what I need to eat. With the opportunity to take communion, it would be a serious issue for me and to me if I didn't. I'm thankful for Stephen for making sure I have communion while I can't attend church and partake of communion there.

I thank God for my husband. Tomorrow is our 36th anniversary!

Luke 22:19
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Butterfly Release at the Cross

Easter flower cross butterfly release

Each Easter, members of our church bring cut flowers to tuck into a cross covered with chicken wire. Some flowers are purchased and some are picked from church member's gardens as they leave their homes to travel to church. By the time church starts, the cross is covered with flowers.

It's a beautiful cross and makes a wonderful backdrop for Easter family photos. Dozens of people take photos of their families after church, standing in front of the cross.

Easter Butterfly Release Flower Cross Flying Monarchs

At the end of our Easter church service, each person receives a butterfly to release at the cross. At a signal from our pastor, the butterflies are released all at one time, each person individually releasing one butterfly.

easter butterfly release monarch

Butterflies are passed out in glassine envelopes, which keep the butterflies safe and snug until they are released. These butterflies are farm raised and are first released into nature at the church. A sticker on the envelope reminds everyone of the reason for the release

Easter Butterfly Release 3 Monarchs on Flower Cross

Butterflies are especially symbolic of Christ and his Resurrection. The chrysalis is symbolic of the tomb or grave. The adult butterfly is symbolic of Resurrection, life, and hope.

When released, many of the butterflies fly to the flowers on the cross. After a short while, they fly off to find flowers for nectar and each species particular host plant to lay eggs.

Butterflies are now packed and waiting for their release tomorrow after church. Pastor Steve will share with us the glorious story of Christ, his Crucifixion, and Resurrection. After this message, we will go outside and release butterflies.

What we often forget is that Good Friday was the day that Mary watched her son, friends watched their friend, and brothers and sisters watched their brother being nailed to a cross, suffer, and die. It was not a glorious sight. It was horrible and heartbreaking. The cross was designed as a torturous death. It was a torturous death.

Most people's vision of the cross is fairly clean. It is made of clean wood (or other material) without the blood and groans of pain visible or audible. It is often draped with purple material. Even with the figure of a man painted or carved on the cross, the blood and agony isn't often shown.

This horrific death was suffered by thousands of people. Crosses were covered with the blood of thousands of people, some innocent of the crime they were accused of commiting but not innocent of any sin, like Jesus was. Thousands of backs were filled with splinters from crosses. But out of the thousands, only one could have simply spoken the word and had ten thousand angels to come to his rescue (see below).

Out of the thousands of crucified people, only one could have and did take my sins to the cross with him. Only one could take the punishment for my sins. Only one could have and he did.

So what is there to say about this type of love? This type of love that could only come from this man who did not WANT to go to the cross but loved the Father and loved me enough to do so. A man who had the power NOT to go to the cross but chose to do so even though it wasn't his will to die in that manner.

It was not HIS will to die this horrific death. But it was HIS will to do the will of the Father and that was what he prayed in the garden while his friends slept, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done".

There is so much I could say but what counts isn't what I say. It's what I do. It's what I think. It's what I am in the very depths of me, the very essence of myself, that counts. I pray that what I AM will speak for me of the love I have for this man, the son of God, who is God himself, Jesus Christ.

I am thankful that God has and will forgive me for the gaps between what I am and what I should be. That's what Easter is all about!

Matthew 26:53
"Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?"

Luke 22:41-48
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. 43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.

47And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.

48But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?

Luna Moth Green Caterpillars ....

luna moth green adult

Green Luna Moths are large and beautiful. Their tails have a slight twist. Burgundy edges this fantastic creature. This is the moth of the Lunesta commercial!

green luna moth eyespot on wing

Their wings have beautiful 'eyes'. Scales cover their wings, giving the moths various colors in their eyespots. Both the forewings and hindwings have eye spots.

green luna moth caterpillar eat sweet gum

Sweet Gum leaves are one of the host plants for these moths. The leaves are the same color as these caterpillars. When not eating, they rest on the stems or petioles, with head and feet raised. They have six real legs in front and ten prolegs in back.

luna moth green

When not eating, their six legs are folded together. These particular caterpillars were preparing to molt. Their head capsules were on the tip of their heads and their prolegs were locked into a mat of silk. After about a day, they would crawl out of their old tight skin, remove their head capsule (like a mask), and continue their lives.

I introduced these green caterpillars to Michael and Caden this week. They've seen thousands of caterpillars, but have not noticed the Luna moths. Their position fascinated the boys. The caterpillars were out of food and we added branches of Sweet Gum leaves to the containers where they were being raised.

green luna moth caterpillar

I asked the boys if they knew what the caterpillars were doing and asked them to look at their legs. They responded with a puzzled "No". I teased them with "They're praying and thanking God for the leaves we're feeding them."

green luna moth caterpillar

Michael and Caden are familiar with praying and thanking God for their food. But the idea of caterpillars doing the same was quite a new one. They studied the caterpillars closely. At supper, they told Stephen (Papa) about the caterpillars praying and thanking God for the food we brought them. (They knew that I was teasing them and they were now teasing Papa in turn.)

I grew up with a Daddy and Mother who never ate a meal (or let us eat a meal) without first thanking God for it. The idea of eating any meal without giving thanks was a foreign one. Of course, we didn't always stop to give thanks for a bag of candy or a bowl of ice cream. We teased about it sometimes, saying that God knows we're always thankful for dessert!

As I thought of this later, I thought about how I so often take so many blessings for granted, not stopping to thank God for them. Things like being free from asthma and allergies, being able to move about freely and see with my eyes, living in Florida with long summers and (compared to the north) mild winters, and living with modern medicine and a full educational system. Friends; I fail to thank God often enough for friends and the blessings they bring into my life.

1 Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Incomplete Molt; Restricted Life

monarch caterpillar larva molt shed skin

Molting is a normal process for caterpillars. As they grow, they must molt (shed their old skin) to grow larger. If they do not molt they will die.

Sometimes a caterpillar will start to molt but some of the old cuticle (skin) will stick. Usually, when it doesn't properly molt, it will die.

If a caterpillar doesn't molt at all, it will die due to restriction all over it's body. It is totally bound up in it's 'old self'.

Sometimes the skin will cause a restricted area around it's body. As the caterpillar grows, the circle of old skin restricts one area of its body. That one area stays the same circumference. In time, it cannot function properly and will die.

monarch larva caterpillar incomplete molt

The arrow in the above photo indicates an area where skin stayed completely around the caterpillar. It is restricted and cannot grow at this point. The front and back of the caterpillar will grow, but it will have a 'waist', not how God designed caterpillars!

If you look at only the front part or rear part of this caterpillar, it would look normal.

I wonder; is that how I am? Does my character look 'normal' when people only look at part of me? What is restricting me in one area that is keeping me from functioning as God intended? Or are there several rings of things I have let bind me in areas?

As I look back over my life, I see where I did shed things that once restricted me.

One of those things is that as long as I am concerned with what God thinks of me, I have learned to not care what others think in certain situations. Sometimes obeying God makes others think badly of us. I have learned to let go of concern about how I appear to people and instead be concerned about what God thinks of me and also how I reflect God to others.