Vanessa V., The American Lady

american painted lady butterfly feeding

 

If not ubiquitous, it is one of the more common butterfly species in North America — and yet it is the one and only American Lady. It’s genus Vanessa  literally is Greek for “Butterfly,” which I suppose is bluntly fitting if not especially descriptive. Routinely sold in butterfly rearing kits aimed at children, we heap upon this bug that tricky dynamic of intertwining human treatments: mystery, reverence, reason, commodification and consumption. Meanwhile, the “painted beauty” (one of its other names) is only one among the “beautiful people” — the Lepidoptera, or the butterflies and their lesser attended to siblings (yes, they would be the moths). The plenitude of anything tends to diminish its luster, and bugs, like sticks of gum or boxes of tissues, are seen not as one in a million, but as one of a million. Butterflies tend to escape that trap, as people are easily dazzled by big wingspans and bright colors, but when the Lady is one butterfly of a million butterflies (so to speak), how can it not lose its luster? How can it stand up to Ctenucha virginica‘s black cape of wings and metallic blue body? Or the elephantinely snouted moth? Or the Monarch’s polka dots and the Comma’s orange brilliance?  As a collective, I  hesitatingly admit that the species does not particularly interest me, especially in the order of Leps. But one beautiful individual can change all of that. The butterfly pictured above is one of those individuals. I am not sure why I followed it or how we found each other. I’m not sure how anyone really finds them, but, eschewing ramblings on fate and chance, I think the answer lies somewhere in the looking. Keep looking, keep searching and in the persistence of living, the beautiful individual will out itself in both the common and rare.

 

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