So far this year has been a year of great sadness for our family, it has also been a year for butterflies – their beauty, fragility and grace has somehow become symbolic of the loss of our second daughter.
In the days after our youngest daughter died, by coincidence or not there were large numbers of monarch butterflies that dwelt on our property, some of them even venturing into the house with one softly landing on our eldest daughter for a short time, causing her face to light up and radiate from within. Their presence did help ease the pain a little and definitely created delight for Tienne which in turn helped the adults who surrounded her.
A close friend gave presents for both our daughters, decorated with beautiful hand formed wire butterflies that now ‘chase’ each other in my eldest daughter’s bedroom, the room she was to share with her much awaited baby sister. She loves the fact that her larger butterfly is being followed by her baby sister’s smaller butterfly and she sometimes lies on her bed and just looks at them quietly.
An already planned trip to New Zealand, in part to introduce Tienne and her new baby sister Saskia went ahead. It was just what we needed as a family…a wedding to celebrate, beautiful friends to spend valuable time with, breath taking scenery…it felt almost like a home coming…and there were butterflies…
Some good friends in Christchurch kindly accommodated us for a couple of nights and Tienne enjoyed meeting and getting to know their children Isaac & Jasper. There was a row of milkweed plants out the front and I took these gorgeous photographs of Tienne and Jasper enjoying watching the caterpillars and the process of their seemingly magical metamorphosis into beautiful butterflies. I can remember being fascinated by this as a child myself… and it brought back so many lovely memories. It also made me smile thinking of both my daughters and the wonder of children in general.
We returned home after our trip with lots of lovely memories, some bittersweet of course…Tienne returned to school and low and behold started bringing home work related to the life cycle of the butterfly…
I can’t help but smile recalled the way she seemingly rolled the sounds of the word ‘chrysalis’ around her mouth. How proudly she told me about how a caterpillar emerges from an egg to become a caterpillar…then forms a chrysalis before becoming a butterfly…, “and then the life cycle starts over again”…She didn’t always get it in the right order, she is only 3 and a half after all but she always said it with great confidence and so proudly…and not just to us, to several other adults and children she thought might be interested…how gorgeous!
Following a discussion with my daughter which included some great questions from her (that I was unable to answer!) I decided to research a little about butterflies and in doing so visited a great website dedicated almost exclusively to butterflies. Fortunately for me the people who set it up are happy to share some of their vast knowledge about butterflies; which I will now in turn share with you…
Please visit http://www.TheButterflySite.com for further information and ideas – far more than what I have included following…
Some facts about butterflies
- Butterflies range in size from a tiny 1/8 inch to a huge almost 12 inches.
- Butterflies can see red, green, and yellow.
- Butterflies are cold blooded.
- The top butterfly flight speed is 12 miles per hour. Some moths can fly 25 miles per hour!
- Monarch butterflies journey from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, a distance of about 2,000 miles, and return to the north again in the spring.
- Butterflies cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 86 degrees.
- Representations of butterflies are seen in Egyptian frescoes at Thebes, which are 3,500 years old.
- Antarctica is the only continent on which no Lepidoptera have been found.
- There are about 24,000 species of butterflies. The moths are even more numerous: about 140,000 species of them have been counted all over the world.
- The Brimstone butterfly (Gonepterix rhamni) has the longest lifetime of the adult butterflies: 9-10 months. (The average life span is 1 month)
- The Morgan’s Sphinx Moth from Madagascar has a proboscis (tube mouth) that is 12 to 14 inches long to get the nectar from the bottom of a 12 inch deep orchid discovered by Charles Darwin.
- Some moths never eat anything as adults because they don’t have mouths. They must live on the energy they stored as caterpillars.
- Many butterflies can taste with their feet to find out whether the leaf they sit on is good to lay eggs on to be their caterpillars’ food or not.
- Butterflies and insects have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies, called the exoskeleton. This protects the insect and keeps water inside their bodies so they don’t dry out.
How do you say butterfly in different languages?
Before answering this question, you first need to understand why they are known as “butterflies” in the English language. Some people believe that butterflies got their name because their wings look like they have a texture as soft as butter – and they fly, of course, so thus: butterfly. It is also suggested that because so many are a yellow colour that it reminded people of butter.
In French, the word “butterfly” translates into the wonderfully melodic, rolling “papillon.”
In the Filipino language, “paruparo” means butterfly.
People in Portugal call butterflies “borboleta,” while in Spain, Mexico, and other Spanish speaking countries, the winged darlings are known as “mariposa.”
If you spot a butterfly while you are in Germany, you call it a “schmetterling,” which is charmingly lyrical. It sounds like the kind of creature that belongs in a book by Dr. Seuss!
The Italian translation is quite beautiful as well: when in Rome, do as the Romans, and call the butterfly a “farfalla.”
Those who speak Romanian know the butterfly as the “fluture,” which sounds exactly like it looks – like you are saying “future,” but with an L in it.
If you find yourself in Lithuania, make sure to point out the beautiful “drugelis.”
If you are speaking Danish, then you are seeing a “sommerfug” whenever you see a butterfly.
…While I find all these facts quite interesting it is still the spiritual significance of the butterfly as it now represents for me that I will always find most thought provoking…and be grateful for.
And as this significance is so closely linked to my children and my affinity with nature I’m finishing with a fun caterpillar/butterfly poem…
Fuzzy Wuzzy, Creepy Crawly by Lilian Schulz
Fuzzy wuzzy, creepy crawly
You will be a butterfly
When the days are sunny.
Winging, flinging, dancing, springing
Butterfly so yellow,
You were once a caterpillar,
Wiggly, wiggly fellow.
…And in writing this article I have travelled some distance emotionally and have gone from feeling quite sad and melancholy to feeling somewhat lighter…thanks in part to butterflies!
**If you’d like some silk butterfly wings for your child or as a beautiful unique & special gift I couldn’t help stocking some…Fishica Butterfly Wings by Victoria Robertson.