Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Is it worth it? The story of the Large Blue Butterfly

Meet the Large Blue Butterfly. It's pretty, isn't it. It turns out that it has something to teach us. Well, me anyway. Here's its story....
Because of the rapid decrease in its population, scientists studied the life cylcle of the Large Blue Butterfly in an attempt to re-establish the species in Great Britain.

Since most of you probably aren't into biology like I am, I'm going to give you the condensed version of it. I promise, there's a point.

It all starts out with thyme-(doesn't everything in life revolve around time?) Well, it turns out the butterfly didn't have enough thyme, and on some occasions, too much. Sound familiar?

The female butterfly lays eggs on the thyme flower. When the eggs hatch, the young caterpillars feed on the flower heads of the thyme plant for about three weeks before dropping to the ground. That's when the Maculinea life cycle takes an odd turn.

Are you still with me? Just checking.

This next part is pretty weird. The caterpillar secretes chemicals that mimic those of ant larvae, so when a worker ant comes across the caterpillar, it takes it back to its underground nest where the ant colony cares for the caterpillar as one of its own.

A butterfly raised by ants. I bet you didn't know that.

This lasts for 10 months, after which time the large blue butterfly caterpillar enters the pupal stage. Two to three weeks later, the large blue emerges as an adult butterfly.

And there you have it.

So what's the moral of the story?

Scientist figured out that the thyme had to be just the right length. I'm serious. --
Moral: Make the most of your time. Find what works for you and take your time when you need to.

Raised by ants--
Moral: Where you are right now does not mean that is who you are or where you'll stay. Are you underground with a whole bunch of things bugging you? Maybe it's all part of the process. Maybe you have to live in the dirt for a little while before you can take flight.

11 months- that's a long time to be a caterpillar living with the ants.
Moral: If the caterpillar gave up after the first few months because it knew deep down inside it wasn't really an ant, it wouldn't survive long enough to become a butterfly either. Know who you are and what you're worth. In the meantime, make the most of what you have and where you are in life. It might be the only way you'll ever be able to 'grow your wings'.

My question to you- is it worth it? Is it worth spending 11 months living with ants in a caterpillar's body just so it can someday grow up to be a butterfly? Is it?

All I can say is, I hope so. I'm pretty sure, actually. And even when I'm not that excited about the caterpillar stages of life, I know that someday things are going to look different to me. Chances are, it will be because I stuck it out and didn't give up.


Melissa said...

Wow. Profound, interesting, thought provoking. Amazing. I love it, and yes, it is worth it.

Kerren said...

No kidding! I learn something amazing every day, and for today, this was IT! Thank you Laura. Today in kindergarten we released 2 more monarch butterflies to the sounds of cheering children. One of them made it's chrysallis inside the lid of a quart jar, and had not tried out his (her) wings at all before being released. The poor thing acted totally stunned. We had to set it out on a flower petal (imatience, hmmmm) and give it some time. The children were so protective . . . some even suggested they would volunteer to sit beside it and guard it until it could fly freely. It didn't take long, and while it was pretty eventful for us, just imagine the beautiful blue butterfly you taught us about. Wow! Thanks again.
Life is so good!

Laura said...

Kerren- I wish I could have been there to see that miracle.

Melissa- thanks. I agree with you, it is worth it.

Teri said...

Wow! What a great analogy! Thanks for the words of inspiration...I needed them today!

Magenta said...

Huh. I kinda knew there was a caterpillar that tricked ants into raising it, but I didn't know it's name was so easy to remember. The Large Blue, huh? It looks beautiful...

But I did a double-take when I heard the caterpillar lives on the ant-farm for 10 months! Now that is a loooong time!!! I had no idea a caterpillar was able to stay a caterpillar for that long!

I liked the morals you discovered in this analogy of Nature. Funny thing about thyme, too. ^,^

Diane said...

Very interesting! I think my 11 months must be just about over and then breakthrough.... YEAH! Thanks.:O)

Laura said...

I'm wondering just how far into the 11 months I am, too. I really doubt caterpillars know how to use a calendar. I guess I won't know how long it will take until the wait is over.

L.T. Elliot said...

This is an awesome post, Laura. If biology is life, it stands to reason that there are wonderful life lessons in biology. Right?