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.