Are Butterflies Really Fliers?

Blue butterfly flying up to a pink daisy with a white brick wall in the background.

Once upon a time in my yard of insects, everyone knew that there were caterpillars and there were butterflies. Most insects, however, never made the connection that caterpillars and butterflies were the same creatures, as metamorphosis was a quiet process.

Well, one day there was a particular caterpillar with a beautiful spirit and many friends. This caterpillar loved to talk to all of the other insects, like the cockroaches, the grasshoppers, and the dragonflies in their neighborhood. The caterpillar understood the worth of the other insects as part of the garden. The other insects loved the caterpillar for being the most caterpillariest caterpillar that ever caterpilled.

But there was one thing about the caterpillar, though. The darling caterpillar knew that their little wormy little body wasn’t meant for them. It just never felt right. They learned from a few wise butterflies that transformation was possible if they were brave and didn’t give up. The caterpillar yearned for that day when they could have butterfly outsides that matched how their insides felt. But unfortunately, dear caterpillar knew they had to keep these feelings from the other insect friends. Some bugs just wouldn’t understand complete metamorphosis.

The caterpillar held out on transforming as long as physically and mentally possible. They were concerned about what their other insect friends would think, but eventually they couldn’t take it anymore. It was time to transition into the butterfly they were always meant to be.

Who Moved My Caterpillar

At first, insects in the community were confused. Where did that cool little caterpillar go? Why did they make such a drastic change into an ostentatious butterfly? Seemed a little dramatic, no? Didn’t the butterfly just make life harder on themselves now that they would stop crawling along eating leaves and instead would have to take a leap of faith and fly? It seemed like such a huge risk to take, to enter a new way of living that the other insects assumed the caterpillar knew nothing about.

The cockroaches muttered under their breath that this went against nature. They couldn’t understand why anyone would abandon the body they were born with and grumbled, as they crawled through garbage, that everyone should just be happy with their lot in life. Uncomfortable with the change, the cockroach stopped talking to the butterfly for fear that folks would think the cockroach was a butterfly sympathizer and would attempt metamorphosis too. But that’s silly. We, humans, know that’s not true and that cockroaches and butterflies are totally different.

The grasshoppers chided the new butterfly, calling it a “confused caterpillar” and telling it that life would be easier if it had just stayed happy crawling. The grasshoppers struggled to understand what joy one could find in flying free and instead yelled about how the butterfly's flight would make other fliers uncomfortable. The grasshopper didn’t want to admit that there was probably enough space in the sky for all of the fliers, nor did they want to spend the time to find out if coexistence was possible. Yelling assumptions about the butterfly possibly hurting the other fliers was easier.

The ones who should have understood the joy of flight, the dragonflies, were surprisingly the harshest. They attacked the poor butterfly, telling them that they would never be a true flying creature, no matter how beautiful their new wings were. “But I AM flying,” pleaded the butterfly. “This is what I was always born to do!” The dragonflies called them a “caterpillar in butterfly clothing,” refusing to recognize the butterfly's true nature. Worse, the dragonflies hurt the butterfly, causing irreparable injury to them in an effort to make the butterfly crawl again. The dragonflies didn’t understand that butterflies don’t go back to being caterpillars, even if you rip off their wings. And the existence of butterflies didn’t make the dragonflies any less of a dragonfly just because they both shared the same airspace.

Some Insects Just Don’t Get It

Now, this may seem silly to you for insects to act this way. Dumb actually. As stable genius humans, we’ve learned since our youth that butterflies start out as caterpillars and that the process of metamorphosis is natural. Some insects, like the butterfly, undergo massive changes in their appearance. We, highly-intelligent humans, never get mad at butterflies or moths for doing so. Who would get mad at a butterfly just for being a butterfly? A preposterous human, that’s who! The rest of us understand that butterflies are just one of the great wonders of nature and a vital part of our ecosystem.

But to small insects with a limited view of the world, a butterfly’s change felt scary and unnatural. It made the uninformed insects uncomfortable and mad. Those insects didn’t go through metamorphosis, so why should the butterfly? Their small minds just didn’t get it. They couldn’t wrap bug brains around the fact that sometimes the way we are born is not the way we are meant to stay. Sometimes a metamorphosis is needed for survival.

Perhaps the cockroach, grasshopper, and dragonflies would have understood the same as we highly-sophisticated humans do, had they taken the time to do some research. But they didn’t do that because they didn’t have access to Google or thumbs to type. I suppose that even if they had Google and thumbs, they probably lacked any desire to try and understand. Some bugs just don’t want to learn. It’s easier (and lazier) to remain ignorant of the butterflies around them and instead just tell the butterflies that they are the ones that have it all wrong.

Different Body, Same Soul

Perhaps this story has you feeling sad too over the fact that all of the insects loved the caterpillar early on, but their unwillingness to see believe that insects could be different, caused them to be hurtful and ugly towards this beautiful soul. It makes me sad and a bit upset too. I mean… what’s up with that?! Why did the butterfly’s outside appearance matter so much to them, when it was the same magical creature inside? Bugs can be so ridiculous sometimes.

Cockroaches are born into a body that doesn’t need to change much. Grasshoppers are born into a body that doesn’t need to change much. Dragonflies are born into a body that doesn’t need to change much. That’s just their nature. The beautiful butterfly was never afforded that ease. The worth of the caterpillar who became a butterfly never changed because of the transition. Their beautiful soul and value on this earth didn’t change either. Why couldn’t the other insects see that? Why couldn’t they just love the butterfly and let the butterfly live its true nature? I mean really... did the butterfly's transition have ANYTHING to do with the lives of the other insects? No. They could all coexist and live their own lives with no harm done. I wish insects were more open-minded like us humans.

Protect Our Butterflies

If you are on the side of the butterfly, then please join me in honoring and supporting the butterflies in our community. We must all acknowledge the hurts that have been perpetrated against them by ignorant insects. We can all work together to educate others and future generations on what it means to be a butterfly and that they are completely valid and authentic in whatever stage of their existence they’re in. Knowing statistics around the butterfly population helps.

We can also create safe spaces for butterflies where they know they are loved, valued, and protected. Research ways to make your own home and family more butterfly-friendly and help keep their population alive. Donate to organizations who work tirelessly to save the butterflies like this one or this one.

I would think this should go without saying, but also know that supporting the butterflies doesn’t mean that people will assume you’re a butterfly too. That’s just a little ridiculous and not how support (or science) works. You don’t automatically grow a pair of wings just because you agree that butterflies’ existence matters. Let us just support them because it’s important for us all to work together to make the world a safer space for our butterflies. Easy as that.

This Was Never About Butterflies

Oh, and also… Transgender Day of Remembrance is Saturday, November 20th. I think you have a better idea of what to do now.

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