The big mess on the front of your car is known scientifically as Libytheana carinenta. Their common name is the American Snout-Nose Butterfly. At least that is what it was before you hit it with your car. Now it’s just a big heap of phlegm daubed all over your windshield.
I did a little research on these flitting little scalawags to find out what all the ruckus is ... or was before they became everyone’s hood ornaments. Apparently, these creatures are not migrating, as I thought, but just out having themselves a good time, mating and laying their eggs on hackberry trees. Entomologists (that’s a scientist who studies insects) say that within a 2-week period, there will be approximately 6 billion of them darting around South Texas. Seems to me that estimation is a little short-sighted because I’m pretty sure that I’ve hit that many on Hwy. 83, although it’s hard to count them at 70 mph as they kamikaze into the glass. By the way, the name “snout” is appropriate, because if you look very closely at these little guys, you will notice that they have a tubular elephant-like nose.
I must ask, but do you know the difference between a butterfly and a regular old moth? Me neither. I tried googling it, and Bill Nye the Science Guy said that butterflies fly during the day, while moths fly predominately at night. He added, “However, many moths fly during the day, and many butterflies fly at night as well.” Sounds to me like Bill doesn’t know the difference either, and is just keeping his butt covered.
Have you noticed that snouties don’t seem to be going anywhere when they fly? You haven’t? Well, then, you’re not much of a noticer. I’ve spent many hours watching butterflies, and their preferred direction of travel. Sometimes I point south and yell at them to “go that way,” but they don’t seem to get it, and my coworkers are starting to look at me like I’m a few clowns short of a circus. Anyhoo, let not your hearts be troubled, my fellow Texicans. The party is almost over, and in a couple of days, you can wash your hands (and your car) of the whole affair.
The Monarch Butterfly migration, however, is just about to commence. These fall-colored beauties should be winging their way south as soon as we get the first good cool front out of the north. Actually, they’ve been traveling now for a few weeks. It just takes them a while to get down here, and even then, they’re only about half way to their destination. Believe it or don’t, but these wonderful creatures are on their way to a small mountain range in central Mexico.
In some cases, a single Monarch flies 3,000 miles from Canada, across the good old U.S.A., and finally, they land, huddled together by the millions on the branches of oyamel fir trees. “Hey Joe, how’s the trip?” “Dude, I almost got T-boned by a 747 over Nebraska, and when I finally hit the Rio Bravo, I stopped for a breather and dang near got drowned by a bleeping Blue Heron.”
I am always amazed every year how this species of insect can navigate that far, and yet still find the way to their traditional nesting ground. You may be shocked to know that when their children are born and start winging their way back home, they die. When their children are born, they continue the journey, but they die too, and when their children are born, they continue on the journey where their parents left off. Then they die too, and so on for 5 or 6 generations before the great-great-great-great-great-grandkids fly back south nonstop the next fall. How on earth do they communicate directions from one generation to the next? “Okay, honey, remind me to tell Jr. not to fly through Houston airspace when he hatches. Old Grandpappy Flappy said the traffic was a bear.” Heck, I can’t communicate to my own kids how to keep their rooms clean, and I’m doubtful that they will pass this skill to their offspring
Compared to other insects, the monarch is a remarkable organism of wonder. Heck, in contrast to the June Bug, it’s a downright miracle. June Bugs don’t seem to have any direction at all. During their mating season, they just fly in one straight line until “Wham,” they hit a brick wall on your porch and knock themselves out. There they lie on their backs with their feet twitching for hours until they awaken from a drunken stupor, take off at full speed, and fly head-on into another wall. After two or three of these episodes, they wake up, decide that the lady June Bug, next to him, looks about as good as the rest, and they mate - spreading their genepool of directional unawareness on to the next generation.
Their behavior reminds me of some college students on the first Friday of spring break. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).
And finally, I will end these thoughts of the buggin’ world by exposing my fear of the most frightening species of insect known to mankind. You’re thinking the scorpion, the tarantula, or the parasitic botfly, aren’t you? No, those bugs are wussies compared to the centipede - Da Da Da-Daaah. These devils are “arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda of the subphylum Myriapoda.” I don’t know what any of that means, but it sounds pretty scary. I’m telling you - I’d rather fight a pack of timber wolves with a toothbrush than have to deal with these demons from the dark side. In fact, if Satan was going to reveal himself to me as an insect, he would come in the form of a centipede.
I’ll probably have nightmares tonight just writing about them now. You just can’t kill these beasts. You can run over them, burn them, smash their heads with a rock, and chop them in half, and they will still be writhing around ready to pounce. They also show up when you least expect it. I’ll be walking along minding my own business, casually look down, and…”AHOAAAAA. HONEY, GO GET MY SHOTGUN.”
For comments or questions, contact John Kerr at john@ctcinspect. com.