Butterfly’s Waltz In Nature
Indeed, in order to become that very splendid colored butterfly you happen to see sitting on your favorite flower or flying into the air, in order to reach that beauty he has undergone a quite turbulent cycle of life. What does a butterfly say when he sees what has come out after he had traversed all these stages? He may be saying what Manali Oak said “A butterfly says, “The caterpillar-me is history, my metamorphosis, a mystery, and today…today is a present, my struggle gifted me.”
I am so curious to find out what is the very thing that crosses your mind when you happen to hear the word butterfly. Some of you may say “Oh Lady, curiosity killed the cat. You know!” Indeed there are rumors that say that this is what actually happens, yet I’ve never in my life (at least up to now) came across a curious cat, not to mention a cat dying of too much curiosity. So, I allow myself to still be curious from time to time. But since I do not have you next to me to receive the answer to my question, I shall provide an answer myself. It may be the fluttering of those colored wings, the already famous butterflies in one’s stomach (and as such pleasant or unpleasant situations may come to your mind) or just those colorful flying creatures you happen to see whenever you are not too busy and allow yourself a few spare moments to breathe the air and see the birds and bees and butterflies.
“What’s in a name?” In this case what is there in the naming of butterflies? It was by chance that they received this name, because in case you did not know, initially they were called “flutterbies”. Wouldn’t that have been interesting to name them like this? No matter their name, butterfly or flutterby, they are nevertheless interesting, amazing creatures. If you ever wondered about the origin of the word butterfly then your question is just about to receive the much expected answer. Rumors say that the word butterfly came from the English word Buttorfleoge. And there is even an explanation for this: namely that in medieval times, butterflies apparently enjoyed brooding over butter churns. Another explanation, this time a smelly one is related to the fact that their excrement is yellowish in color. And just in case you prefer a somehow more on the button or perhaps on the nose explanation then you would probably be relived to hear that other rumors say that all this naming stuff really started with the so called yellow brimstone butterfly of Europe. Voices make themselves heard saying that its is in fact this butterfly that inspired the name of butterflies, because this butterfly makes its presence felt in the early spring period or the period which is also known as the “butter” season. This comes to be a more realistic explanation of their name, don’t you think so?
And to proper introduce you to these colorful winged creatures I have to tell you that they belong to the so called order of Lepidoptera. How about a parade of butterflies? Such a parade would certainly make you see life colored (that if you tended to see it up to now only in black and white)! Such an unfolding parade would certainly make you notice their main traits, the physical ones of course. No matter the species, they display certain common traits such as: the pair of antennae, the 6 legs and of course the three distinct parts, namely the head, the thorax and the abdomen. Surprisingly or not, their skeletons are placed on the outside of their bodies and carry the name of exoskeleton.
Have you ever wondered how these creatures breathe? They would look pretty weird if they had nostrils like ours, would they? These nostrils would practically cover all their tiny body and would probably leave no place to all that palette of colors or to all those stripes and patterns one manages to see when looking at them. It would certainly be a funny image! And just to prevent this mocking at their looks, God or Mother Nature probably made up their mind to spare them of too much turmoil and sadness and as such provided them with some openings in their abdomen, called “spiracles”. It is these openings that permit butterflies to breathe.
As for the blinking eyes these winged creatures have been endowed with, the situation gets to be somehow more complex. “What is there more complex than two eyes?” – This is precisely what most of you may ask. The next possible scenario (trying to deem your likely reaction) would be one in which you end up being really surprised when hearing the information according to which butterflies actually happen to have eyes (I haven’t even noticed them!). But since I mentioned at some point the word complex I shall now go into details and let the cat out of the bag, if I may say so. It is said that all butterflies carrying on with their lives out there in this world of ours have been endowed with eyes made up of neither more nor less than just about 60,000 lenses. And if you tended to think that this meant complex then evidences clearly come to prove to you that you were wrong; I say this having in mind the information according to which certain species of butterflies are said to have thousands of eyes. If it were for me to wrap all this information in a joke I’d say that these eyes must be really tiny ones, resembling to a certain extent the so called eyes of the Chinese people. Now, if you happen to be Chinese you should not feel offended by this remark, mainly because it is also said that these eyes are tiny and friendly as well. As tiny and unobservable these eyes happen to be, they are quite a treasure in the house of the winged butterfly. Why do I say this? Because they can perceive colors such as green, yellow and even red. Surprisingly or perhaps amazingly enough butterflies can as well see ultraviolet light, which is the light that is imperceptible to the human eye. In case you ask yourself how this happens, here comes the elucidation of it all. Scientists managed to discover that it is this light that makes the signings on flowers even the more vivid to them and as such routes them to the sweet nectar tubes. It was even discovered that some butterflies happen to have their own ultraviolet “lanterns” on their wings, perhaps meant to dazzle the other butterflies since they are the only ones capable of seeing them. It is just a supposition of mine, nothing documented! (I was referring to the last part…only).
And as there are plenty of interesting facts to be discovered about butterflies, I invite you to join me in this rather short trip into their universe. It sounds quite good to me: a universe of butterflies, colorful butterflies flying in all directions, displaying all their traits in front of you, yet demanding for mercy (they happen to be quite fragile after all) and interest. Why interest, you may ask me? Interest because in order to be able to become friendly and begin to trust you and share all its secrets with you, the poor butterfly needs it. You need it too, to be able to show yourself to the others, don’t you?
Going back to butterflies…I need to tell you something about their wings. You probably didn’t manage to see its eyes, yet you most surely happened to see their wings, did you? When asked about its wings a butterfly would probably provide the following answer: “For a start I have to say that I have four wings. They are not joined together as you probably tend to think, yet they still move at one fell swoop or wing in wing as I like to say. Of course this movement in unison happens whenever I am in flight. And just if you happen to be mean and wish to crush my wings (now I really, really do not advise you to do this), I have to tell you that if my back wings happen to be damaged I can still fly (Ha, ha, ha! You mean guy!)” Now, I am not sure if the ha, ha part would still be there when all this information would be uttered by a butterfly (I’d have to add this on my list of to do things, namely to learn the language of butterflies), yet what I know for sure is that the other parts were as veridical as my existence (don’t think the comparison is proper, yet…last time I embarked upon that “to be or not to be” monologue I discovered I still was. What a surprise that was to me…I was! Or should I say I “be”?)
And since I mentioned the word existence, there is no possible life there without such senses as the tactile (that person communicating in his songs, pretty loud and clear too, such messages as “Touch me with your lips!” was in fact quite real, was it?) one and as the one involving smell. And if you ever wished to be able to stick your feet (literally) into something then you should probably ask the good fairies out there to transform you into a butterfly (if not for the rest of your life, as a butterfly it may be a quite short one, then at least for just a few hours). How does this sound to you? I guess you’d prefer doing this as a man rather than as a butterfly, yet in some cases society demands that we settle the so called social mask on our faces and play the role of hypocrisy. Now, just before you condemn me and tend to think that I called you a hypocrite, think twice and see if this is not what really happens (not in all cases, but in certain life hypostases for sure). And since it all started with sticking one’s feet into something, I need to clarify it all and say that butterflies use their feet to taste. As such, not only that they stand on their food, but they can also taste it. Surprisingly enough nature placed some sensors of taste in their feet and this is what makes it all possible.
Talking about their feet I cannot fail to mention the following fact as well: butterflies happen to have been endowed with some hooks on their feet, hooks which are meant to help them hold on to things. And when it comes to feeling and smelling, they do it all with their rather long antennae.
And since I pretended at some point that I know what a butterfly has to share to us about himself, I shall now continue to play the role of the interpreter, translating into English what butterflies have to say when it comes to their wings. Admit it! I made you curious, have I? You may as well wonder, when I managed to learn their language, that is if they happen to have a language and if they do not simply use signs instead to communicate. I am no connoisseur I have to admit it, yet I know a few tricks which enabled me to be able to share what they have to say with you too. So, here it is! The wings part…”Our wings are covered with colored shiny scales (this can explain why you see colors when looking at us). And just to warn you, I’d have to advise you to just watch us from afar and never try to see if we have dyed our wings. Now say it! I promise never to rub off your wings! Louder, I cannot hear you!” “I promise I will not rub off the scales from your wings and I will have confidence in you and take for granted when you tell me that you are all natural and do not use any fake embellishment tricks.”(That was just the voice of the man. I need to make this clear so that you do not risk getting confused.) And hearing this the butterfly continued his speech “Now, that I had you promise me all this I have to tell you that you may touch them but only if you happen to hear me calling for your help. As for the color part, it often happens that we display a color on the outside part of our wings and a different one on the inside. And this just to dazzle you with our beauty! And if you just wondered what happens to our wings when we decide to rest, being too tired of so much flying, then I have to tell you that you should be looking for them above our backs. They are closed there, waiting for the next flight to take place.”
But since even planes take off and land from time to time, so do butterflies when making up their mind to take a good sleep or if not to sleep then at least to rest. When do they do this? The answer is: when it happens to be too cold or rainy. And this mainly because in case you did not know up to now butterflies act like some sort of sun charging batteries and whenever it happens to be too cold and they cannot take their needed energy from the all mighty sun, they decide to stay on the ground and rest. In fact they happen to rely quite heavily on the warmth of the sun that gives them the necessary strength to put their beautifully colored wings into motion. Even though they may not look cruel too you at all (just a game of words I intend to use), evidences come to prove that they are in fact cold-blooded creatures. As such do not expect to be stabbed while they come along you, but rather expect not to see any butterfly leg (or was its wing? I just cannot decide which one was it!) when the temperature is below 50 degrees.
Well, now that I finally managed to share this resting part with you, I need to tell you where these tiny winged colored creatures known under the name of butterflies sleep. Of course, it needs to be a safe place. And what better place for them to remain hidden to any intruder’s eyes if not right on the underside of a leaf or a branch! And do they organize any pajamas’ party? Are they really great amateurs of such things? Well, if you happen to come across rather solitary butterflies then they may end up sleeping all by themselves (they probably just want to avoid disputing the leaf bed with some other winged butterfly! Don’t you think so?). Even so, evidences prove that some other species prefer sleeping in groups. And just in case you did not know of their existence up to now, there are also some poisonous butterflies out there; apparently these very butterflies happen to consider that sleeping together helps them better protect themselves. Being endowed with rather keen senses of smell they may as such help each other if they happen to feel that anything goes wrong. Amazingly enough it is even said that there is one species of butterflies living in Costa Rica, a species known under the name of Marpesia Berania which prefer sleeping in groups on a leaf. And just in case someone comes there to disturb the sleep of one of these guys, this one opens his wings and as such manages to touch the one standing next to him and the story continues with each of the butterflies located on that leaf, or better said, being part of that group. I shall call it a sleeping group. As you can all probably imagine, this protection “shield” allows them to leave the area thus escaping the possibly emerging danger.
And talking about danger I happened to be haunted by the idea of trying to escape predators. How do butterflies manage to do this? First the word camouflage should be mentioned; they manage to do just this by hiding on trees and leaves. Of course they make use of their colors and patterns to camouflage themselves. Another thing that helps them greatly avoid predators is to be encountered in the way they fly. They seem to have turned the flying thing into a real art, an art which they apparently feel the need to master just perfectly or I should perhaps use the word flawlessly. They do it in such a way that it is pretty hard to determine the direction in which they are flying and this is precisely what makes them hard to catch. They may be flying in zigzag, left and right, up and down and as such trying to dazzle you and its possible predators as well.
You most probably happened to see cats trying to catch them in flight. If you haven’t then you should perhaps start improvising such a show (I do not instigate here to any animal abuse! I happen to simply be dazzled by butterflies and happen to like cats too so…I see no use in doing this at all!). I never watched this show up to the end of it so I really do not know if there was any winner there, yet it was quite funny to watch them both there, engaged in what looks to many of us as a playful spending time activity.
Going back to their physical traits I need to make it clear for everyone, even though I doubt there was any unclear thing regarding this aspect, namely that butterflies do not have mouths and unlike the annoying mosquitoes they happen to have no teeth as well. So, they do not chew. I just felt the need to tell you this in order to prevent any of you trying to wash its teeth or hand them some chewing gum. (This was meant to be a joke. At least pretend to be laughing…Should I come tickle you?). They may not have been endowed with a mouth, yet they have what scientists call a proboscis (some sort of a straw), which they use to drink nectar and juices. In some cases you may be looking for a thin straw- like proboscis, yet what you may end up finding could be a pretty sharp and strong one. This happens to be the case of the so called Asian Vampire moth that simply pierces the skin of animals and drinks their blood. Quite a movie scenario, don’t you think so? When not eating, this proboscis usually curls up.
Talking about eating, butterflies can surely not be blamed of falling into the trap of greed. I say this having in mind the information according to which butterflies do not eat do get bigger (this is how they manage to stay slender I guess. After all if it were for us to give up all that meat stuff, and fat stuff, and sweets and decided to go on a nectar diet we would probably also manage to stay slim and shady, don’t you think so?). Instead they use their food in order to regulate the temperature of their body. Do they happen to have any favorite colors when it comes to flowers they decide to pollinate? It looks like they have a weakness for flowers that are pink, purple, yellow and red and happen to have single petals. And if you tended to think that only nectar was on their menu, then the following facts will probably bewilder you too. Rumors say that there are some species of butterflies that actually prefer feeding on animal dung and rooting fruit! (That’s YUMMY, is it?) No matter their food preferences, you should nevertheless be informed that butterflies have just been awarded the silver medal being the second largest group of pollinators, the bees taking their gold. “Not fair, not fair!” – I can actually hear the butterfly saying.
With all this more or less fairness, you may as well wonder where butterflies live. The proper answer would be all over the world, except the freezing continent of Antarctica. And since they do not happen to have a home, some sort of a general headquarter, the bees that happen to be more home-based just surpassed them in all that pollination job. Even so, there are some plants out there, namely the so called blazing star and Curtis milkweed, which apparently prefer to place their entire existence at the feet of butterflies when it comes to pollination matters.
I just wonder how these guys manage to communicate with each other. First there is that wing touch I already mentioned at some point when talking about scaring predators away, then there needs to be something more complex, like their eyes. At least this is what my logic screams. Is there any logic in my mind? Yes, there is. I am not the one actually claiming this, yet information provided by scientists clearly comes to prove this. Even though most butterflies stay mute all their lives, emitting no sound whatsoever, there are some out there that seem to have had enough silence and as such they decided (they must have organized a reunion before!) that they should start making some noise. And they apparently respected their agenda and started releasing loud clicking sounds, obtained by means of their wings. So, do I happen to hear any applause? Use your wings, your hands, whatever, just make some noise for the good looking, handsome, colorful butterfly!
It has become certitude that they are colorful, yet how long these nice winged creatures stay among us? In translation: how long do butterflies live? It is said that most butterflies live 20 to 40 days. They are the lucky ones, since some others live only 3 or 4 days, and only the luckiest of them carry on with their lives, colorful lives if I am allowed to say this, up to 10 months. And just to show them some respect you should be addressing to them as follows: to the male calling him a male, to the female calling here a female, and to the baby butterfly as a caterpillar or larva. I’d call this lack of creativity! Yet, things somehow change when it comes to nominating a group of butterflies as this one is usually referred to as a flutter.
So, the quintessence of it all is just about to come: Let the flutter pervade my senses, fill my stomach and make me feel life again! Am I too poetic? It must all be due to the hour I am writing! (I guess).
And for those asking for no discrimination between males and females I happen to have a somehow disappointing information. I am referring here to the discovery according to which it is said that female butterflies are usually bigger and live longer than male butterflies. After all, this happens not to be only our case and as such we should be relieved, and stop feeling guilty (if this is really what we felt)!
And if you ever decide to ask a female butterfly about her mating habits she will probably answer you as follows: “It is very important for us to find a mating partner and just to make sure that we find one we make use of such weapons as the scent and of course we try to catch their attention with our colorful display.” She may be shy to get into details with you so I will continue telling you that the next thing on her list once the mate had been found is to lay eggs or just an egg and in order to do this she carefully chooses a plant. Amazing facts, amazing butterfly – this is just how I would summarize all this!
What is clear to me is that they love drinking nectar, they have an interesting body structure, they happen to love basking in the sun (no difference here from many of us), they display interesting colors and wing patterns, they are nevertheless clever when it comes to making use of camouflage techniques, they like sticking their feet in almost anything that arouses their attention (we would do it too, with the things we happen to dislike, yet society taught us that it would perhaps be unsuitable for us to do this.), unfortunately they bring colors to our lives for rather short periods of time, yet we should thank Mother Nature and God that they exist. They have undergone quite a few stages before displaying their beauty in front of our eyes. They may have possibly never thought about us while doing this, yet they certainly managed to attract our attention towards them mainly because of their beauty. And here I feel the almost badly, almost imperious need to quote Manali Oak who once came out with the following dialogue: “Butterfly: The change you see in what I was and what I am is due to what I did when I was you. I made change happen! I became the change. Caterpillar: Don’t be so proud of yourself, I am there and I will always be, to remind you of your past. You are inspiring, but I am the inspiration. They look AT you, they look UPTO me.”
Having in my mind the above quoted statement made by the caterpillar, which clearly states that she is the inspiration, as a conclusion I may ask you if you think you too happen to have a muse, something to inspire you. And in case you happen to have such a muse, the next logical question that comes to my mind is the following one: Is it your muse a butterfly or a whole flutter of them? Is it the flutter you happen to have in your stomach or the ones you see fluttering their colored wings in front of your eyes? Too many questions on the square meter? The butterfly said…I am sorry. I remained silent.
As Hans Christian Anderson once said “Just living is not enough, “said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” Except freedom and perhaps flowers, it would be pretty hard to find sunshine, given the fact that it is winter now and that snow just came to cover it all under a white blanket. As such, butterflies are not here in this very moment but instead decided to bring joy to other people as well. They must be somewhere where it is warm and sunny and while looking into the mirror admiring themselves they probably say utter the following words “The Adventure was worth it!” (Manali Oak)11