Sunday, 6 July 2014

Fragile? in pencil crayon

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is fragile. This butterfly would be known to those of you in the UK as a Camberwell Beauty, but to most of the rest of us (in various languages) it's a Mourning Cloak. That's where scientific names come in handy, so let's call it Nymphalis antiopa. And this one's feeding on... I dunno. Cotton candy? To be honest, my wrist was completely done for by the time I got that far, so it's feeding on scribbles.

So, butterflies. The epitome of fragile, right? With those thin, scaly wings that are so easily broken, and the ephemeral life span and all.

Not so fast, Sam. Not only is this particular butterfly tough enough to be found all over North American and Eurasia in a variety of climates, it's also capable of going through (at least) two broods even where I live in Canada. And how does it manage that in such a short season?

The second brood of adults overwinters.

Yeah, seriously. Forget what you know about insects getting through cold, long winters as eggs or as buried chrysalids. These beauties and a few others find their way down under leaf litter, piles of sticks, or other sheltered places and go through the entire winter as adults. Then, they're out flying pretty much as soon as the air's warm enough to allow it. Even before there's food around for them. They're our first butterflies of spring, and always looked forward to for that reason. If you want to encourage them in your yard, leave a bit of a brush pile in a back corner and they'll have a place to shelter for the winter.

That whole thing astounds me, really, and I talk about this sort of thing for a living. I guess the lesson is to not be fooled by the appearance of fragile.

Or something.

Maybe there is no lesson except that the world is a very cool place and I wish that we'd take more time to look at it that way.

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