Pretzel and I just finished a bug pinning class. We learned how to rehydrate a butterfly and how to pin it so that it can dry with it’s wings splayed out. It was pretty cool, and actually far easier than I thought.
It got me thinking about all the times that I’ve gotten to see cool bugs. When we lived in Wisconsin, we saw Monarch butterflies every summer.
They had huge, fat green caterpillars that were slow and ponderous. They ate all the milkweed, and it actually made the monarch butterfly poisonous if swallowed. But they were ubiquitous—we fucked around with the bugs, we caught the butterflies and let them go again, we used to find the cocoons. I even vaguely remember seeing one hatch and dry its wings out one summer.
I’m not sure if it occurred to you when you were younger, but we haven’t seen those again since we moved. We happen to be right on the border of where they migrate to. Maybe people have seen some, but I definitely haven’t seen one in perhaps decades.
No one pinned a monarch butterfly at the class. But I was thinking about them as we were looking at our small butterflies. And having to handle them and pin them caused me to rediscover the bizarre and striking beauty of insects. I do not remember what butterfly I had to pin—hang on lemme find it.
Look how blue that shit is. Damn. Mine’s not that blue. It’s an insect—seen as the lowliest of the creatures—and it’s freakin’ gorgeous. And then I think back to how freakin’ orange monarchs are. These things are surreal. They are alien.
I remember when I was a junior in highschool, and the WASL tests were going on (it stands for Worthless As Shit Learning). School always had late start during those two weeks, but I went to school anyway because I would get dropped off by mom on her way to work.
One day I found a huge fucking moth.
It couldn’t fly. I didn’t want to leave it on the sidewalk, so I picked it up and carried it around for a couple hours. It just chilled on my hand, and I went and showed various teachers. Most of them were not excited for me to bring giant bugs to them. It was as big as my palm.
Before class started, I figured I would take it out to the football field near the forest to give it its best shot. I placed it near a fence and tried to nudge it off my hand. It flapped it’s wings a couple times and then just fluttered away. It was fucking mystical.
It started to make me think about all the other candid moments I’ve had with other wild animals and bugs. It’s hard to appreciate them at the time, but there is something so distilled and mystical about nature. You don’t really come face to face with it, and when you do you start to understand what about it our ancestors used to worship and emulate from it. Nature is all we’ve ever known on this planet, and somehow this shit is so alien.
When was the last time you ever took a step back from nature and really tried to parse the different things you might encounter. We take it for granted because we grew up with it—we’ve seen these creatures in pictures and videos. But have you ever really considered it? We assume that most creatures have eyes and a mouth. A spider has eight fucking eyes, and it has mandibles instead of a mouth. Like, try not to imagine a spider, try to just think about a creature with eight eyes and pincers for lips. What the hell is even happening on our planet anymore?
I’m going to list a couple descriptions and avoid using identifying language, and I want you to try not to think about what animal I’m describing.
A four legged creature with a long, tapering face. It’s fur is short, coarse, and tan colored. From the back of its skull, it has two massive protrusions that twist in a single helix that are longer than the skull itself.
A small creature with a long, segmented body. From each segment of it’s body is a pair of legs. From it’s head, massive probing antenna that tap and brush everything in front of it.
A creature that pushes itself along with a couple external flaps, and a tail that propels it through fluids. It has a scaly skin, and when threatened, it balloons in size and becomes covered in spines.
A creature with a long tongue that it can shoot out to capture prey. It has two, bright red eyes on either side of its head. It has long thin limbs with massive, circular fingertips that let it climb vertical surfaces.
A creature with two brittle wings covered in brightly covered powders. It has no mouth, instead it has a long tongue it can unfurl to drink nectar from flowers. It’s eyes are multi-faceted spheres.
How bizarre is our world?