Saturday, August 4, 2007
Where does the butterfly go when it rains? That's the title of a children's book by May Garelick. I often read to my classes during the years I taught first grade.
That question returns on rainy summer days. Not as a real question-- I suppose insects use leaves for umbrellas-- but more as a rhythmic phrase.
I've never looked for butterflies in the rain. How many of us have? Butterflies are elusive enough in sunlight.
I've seen them mate, that aerial Karma Sutra where the male and female soar and zigzag while connected end to end.
Yesterday I watched a pair of mating monarchs in my front yard as the sun was lowering. I remembered as a child asking my mother why butterflies stuck together like that. She probably told me they were kissing.
This mating flight looks more difficult than pedaling a bicycle built for two, where the riders are at least headed in the same direction.
Is there mating etiquette? Does the male wish his mate would flap her wings harder, help him along? Does the female let her mate pull her backwards, or does she flutter him forward too in a push-me-pull-you ballet? Does one say, "Hold on. You're crushing my antenna?"
This pair swerved up into the oak tree. I waited for them to drop low again, but when they didn't I peered up into the branches and saw them folded together, four wings, a head on each end. The outer butterfly opened and folded its wings; the one in the center stayed still. Eventually they were both still and the crook in my neck said I watched long enough.
I'd never seen this last phase of butterfly mating, this peaceful resting in each other's wings. I always glad when I'm given a glimpse of the more private parts of nature-- animals going about their lives, heedless of humans, yet so dependent upon us in many ways.
These monarchs will not live much longer. The female will lay her eggs on one of the abundant milkweed in the area. I hope she chooses one of the two plants we left in the otherwise cultivated garden.
Belly up to the bar~