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Friday, July 24, 2015

Self-Selecting Butterflies

You might think that when I go out taking pictures of butterflies, I choose the prettiest specimens to photograph. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many gorgeous butterflies flit right past me, never pausing long enough for me to even get a chance at a picture. The ones I eventually photograph and film are the ones who will stay still for a spell  -- at least long enough for me to not only notice them but also to get ready to focus on their antics.

The butterfly in the video clip above seemed to want me to notice. It was modeling for me, flapping its wings and turning around in a circle, almost  auditioning to play the role of a butterfly. And if I were casting, it would surely have gotten the part!

What we see is only what they allow us to see, no more, no less. Some butterflies are shy and some are hams. And some look much more brilliantly attractive when in flight than at rest.

This tiny fellow has wings that are blue on top and white underneath. When the wings are folded, as they generally are when it rests on a flower, the butterfly looks white and blends in with the Virginia Mountain Mint.

But when it spreads out its wings to fly, the blue color is revealed in a split second splash.

I've spent a lot of time chasing the tiny blue butterflies in the air only to lose them when they landed somewhere. Because once they land, they look completely different.

In the video above, if you have enough patience, you can see the transformation for yourself. But don't get distracted. There are other insects in the shot, such as this brilliant green fly.

They say that we see only what we want to see   -- that something can be staring us right in the face, and if we are not mentally ready to see it, we won't. But the other side of the coin is that sometimes we see something we never expected to see, and we are so blown away by it, that we forget about what it was we were supposed to be doing.

It is good to be disciplined, but it also helps to be open to what is actually happening, rather than what we thought was going to happen.

You can have a well designed experiment with chimpanzees set up to prove or disprove a stated hypothesis. That would be a good way to get reputable data and funding and grants and publication. You can take pictures of what you set out to take pictures of. and then ignore all the wonderful things that are actually happening with your chimpanzee. Or you can pay attention to self-selecting acts of obvious intelligence.

In real life, things rarely go according to plan, but there are wonderful surprises! This is one of those things that each of us has to discover individually at our own pace. It cannot be done by committee.


  1. I believe the little white butterfly with blue on his back is a sulfur, but not 100% sure. They are so pretty though! I see your Mountain mint is still hanging on. It is here too. We have gotten so much rain and everything has really benefited from it this year - so many new wildflowers are showing up!
    All our fruit trees are really suffering from the bug explosions that the rain really helped too, though. Pretty pictures, Aya!

    1. Hi, Kathy. Thanks for the tip! I will look up sulfur butterflies to see if that is a match.

      Yes, the wildflowers are enjoying the rain, but the fruit trees are besieged by insects, mostly Japanese beetles. Oddly enough, the wild plum that I didn't plant is holding up better than the cultivated fruit trees.