Friday, June 11, 2010

The Butterfly's Demise

As I sit on my porch this year, we've had more butterflies than I remember from other years. Because we live in the country, we don't do a complete mow until the widlflowers have seeded out. So I've been enjoying watching the butterflies flit from flower to flower. One morning, I saw a butterfly near the horsemint bloom. One minute it was fluttering gracefully along. The next minute the wing beats were struggling and the butterfly was dangling upside down. I knew instantly what had happened, the butterfly had been attacked by a spider. The butterfly hadn't got stuck in a web, rather the spider had somehow bitten the butterfly as it was near the bloom. With my binoculars, I could see the small spider on the butterfly's body. The butterfly went limp and swayed in the breeze held by one strand of the spider's silky web thread. On one level, I should have gone and gotten my camera with a macro lens. It was certainly high drama. I'm pretty sure the butterfly was doomed from the first moment I saw its distress.Once the spider's venom paralyzed it, I'm pretty sure it couldn't have recovered. I don't think I could have changed the outcome even if I had tried to intervene. On one level, I'm ok with the spider getting its needed nourishment. It was amazing how that small spider could conquer the much larger butterfly. The spider was hiding inside the bloom of the horsemint, waiting patiently for its opportunity. How amazing is God's creation.

But another part of me grieved a little, because like most of us, I value butterflies more than I value spiders. I did some web searching and found one article about spiders that said that while spiders are beneficial to humans because they eat insects, that people generally find them unsavory because they tend to lurk in dark places, they often have a grotesque appearance, and their toxicity has been exaggerated. Spiders are also prey for other animals - some wasps paralyze spiders and lay their eggs on the paralyzed body for their young's first nourishment.

I want to value and appreciate all of God's creation. But I have to confess that various critters that invade my indoor space do not always survive to tell about it. When practical, yes, I relocate. But things like mice, wasps on the exterior of the house, little moths invading the interior, scorpions crawling on the floor don't always survive their encounter with me. But it is truly amazing to me the variety of animal species, all with a different purpose and a different diet. Some things I appreciate more in their native environments, but I wonder if there aren't wider applications to this story of the spider and the butterfly even if nothing more than to appreciate something for what it is - even when our first reaction is negative.

One of the things that went through my mind was from the story of Jonah. When Jonah was upset because God was not going to destroy Nineveh because the people had repented. God sent a vine that grew and brought joy to Jonah when he was discouraged. A worm came and chewed the vine and it withered and died. Both the vine and the worm were part of God's creation - fulfilling their intended purpose.

Father, help me to see the world through your eyes. Help me to value all parts of your creation - from the smallest microbes to the largest creatures of the sea - from the beautiful butterflies and birds to the spiders, vultures and hyenas. Help me also to value the people in your world. Some people are like the spider - hard to like or love. Father, help me to look for the good in the people around me and to value them as you do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary Ann,

Yesterday one of those big garden spiders had made a web over part of our butterfly bush and had already caught and sucked the juice out of 2 swallowtail butterflies, and there was a third swallowtail caught in the web and paralyzed but still alive. I moved the spider to another part of the yard and tore down the web and removed the paralyzed butterfly and cleaned all the spider web off. It could barely wiggle it's abdomen and legs. I laid it out in a flower pot on our patio expecting it to be dead today but found it clinging to the side of the flower pot. I picked it up and let it crawl around on my hand. The wings were very ragged. I didn't expect it could fly. Took it inside to show the wife and then back outside, and to my surprise it crawled up on the tip of my finger and flew away. So the paralyzing venom does wear off, much to my surprise.