Bug Soup

My husband and I came across an unusual find in the garden recently. A monarch caterpillar. He was so striking we had to run and get the camera.

A monarch caterpillar dangles off a green leaf

Caterpillars are such amazing creatures. They are the larvae of butterflies. As larvae, their main job is to eat and eat and eat. Hmm, sounds like an interesting job description!

A side view of a monarch caterpillar crawling on a green leaf

After they’ve finally eaten their fill, the caterpillar will search for the right spot, anchor itself, and create a chrysalis. Here is where things get really interesting.

I’m a fan of O Magazine’s Martha Beck and she wrote an article called Growing Wings about what goes on inside a chrysalis. She described how if we looked inside a chrysalis we might expect to see a caterpillar that goes through some linear process of becoming a butterfly. But that’s not the case. What happens instead is that the caterpillar sheds its outer skin and becomes a sort of “bug soup.”

A monarch caterpillar with its head raised crawls on a green leaf

I should probably talk a little quieter. I think I’m causing the poor fella to get a little distressed.

Beck says, “in that glop are certain cells, called imago cells, that contain the DNA-coded instructions for turning bug soup into a delicate, winged creature—the angel of the dead caterpillar.”

The process from which caterpillars become butterflies is called metamorphosis, a wonderful metaphor for our more human experience. The problem can be that as humans we tend to be a little more linear. We see the butterfly eggs, the larvae (caterpillar), the cocoon, and then the butterfly. A linear progression of neatly unfolding events.

As a result, we sometimes expect the same things in our own lives. However, Martha Beck reminds us that the butterfly-making process is more like the sausage-making process. It’s not for the faint at heart.

Sometimes we find our lives embroiled in our own bug soup. Digressions from the linear progressions of our own expectations, otherwise known as personal setbacks. Some of this change can be so profound we begin to lose the sense of our own identity.

Martha encourages us to hold on. Her article gives ideas to help foster your life’s bug soup into a time of transformation. Just like this little guy is about to go through.

A monarch caterpillar crawls on a green leaf

Caterpillars make marvelous metaphors, and it helps that they’re so photogenic too.

9 Responses to Bug Soup

  1. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyNicole Reply

    He’s a gorgeous fella, and those shots are too.
    I tell you, upgrade your hubby & get that D300 for yourself 😉

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      I like that plan. Now I have to get strategic to make that happen.

  2. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyRed Hamster Reply

    Wonderful wise post. Monarchs are my favorite butterfly. Sad that pesticides and our obsession with a perfect weed-free yard have caused a decline in monarchs.

    I had no idea how the monarch caterpillar made it from bug to butterfly. Thanks for referencing Beck’s “Bug soup”. I am nurturing a milkweed plant that snuck into my garden because it’s hosting monarch caterpillars. Your pictures are way better than the pics I took with my iPhone. Thanks.

  3. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyStella Reply

    My Marly! It is easy to think in a linear fashion. I think at least. I catch myself doing that sometimes. And doing so in reference to our expectations about life does seem to be setting oneself up in a sense. I mean our own bug soup is probably normal to some extent-we can learn from it maybe. Or, as you said, lose ourselves/identity in it if we expect linear outcomes instead of coping with the bug soup that is life. I don’t know, but that might be because I’m in the middle of some bug soup;)!
    p.s. your photos are awesome here-really wonderful…

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Bug soup has a lot of dna that can turn out some amazing results…like butterflies. I know, I know, it’s a metaphor. But I do think there’s some truth to it. I frequently wish my life had some pretty little linear process of one great thing building to the next. It just seems like life is a little more like a 2-step (2 steps forward, 1 step back) than it is a march. You can still make progress with a 2-step though, you just have to keep at it. Like the song says, I hope you dance!

  4. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyRyan Reply

    The description sounds like my kids when they raid the food cupboards, well done on capturing such great shots.

  5. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyGrace Reply

    Wow Marly these pics are amazing! Thought provoking piece.

  6. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyAverage Jane Reply

    I ran into one of those yesterday while I was doing yard work. So pretty!

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