[Grizzled skipper butterfly]
Photo credit:Elizabeth Dack/ Norfolk Wildlife Trust
Written by Jude Bird
Grizzled Skipper Butterfly
Show me how we begin
where you unfurl
into the blue woo-hoo, when
your black spangled robes
do not hesitate
come light my heather, show me
where you begin, myriad
under the small blue flowers
in the leaf shadowed place
lift up lift up
hairy fairy, those that take you for moths
they haven’t seen you. Make me true
fey wanderer, when I pick up a stone
and it grows warm in my hand
is nothing except what is wanted
and weary we turn to the sun
[ ] show me how.
More about the grizzled skipper butterfly…
You might call the Grizzled Skipper Butterfly a fussy little thing. It likes its surroundings just so, a bit of dry earth for its morning sunbathing, some brambles for when it’s windy and it likes blue flowers best please. In fact, its eyes are specifically made to respond to blue. When the right flowers are abundant, the male gets to socialise, flirt, take his pick but when they are scarce he has to find the best foodplant and stay put, hoping a lovely lady passes by.
Seems we keep spoiling the fun by using intensive farming methods with no respect for biodiversity and the species is subsequently disappearing from many areas. Traditional methods of land management such as coppicing and rotational grazing are helping and abandoned industrial sites can be re-seeded and managed in such a way as to provide suitable habitat.
As caterpillars, they fashion tents from leaves and doze off for four whole months, venturing out for an occasional munch. Then they spin cocoons and cosy down under the plant’s stem for NINE months. I must have read The Very Hungry Caterpillar a hundred times to my kids but Carl Sagan did not make these facts clear to me.
I was dumbstruck. I felt the need to lie in the grass and stare at leaves, filled with wonder at how anything so tiny and defenceless could be so trusting of life. It got me thinking about Providence and how the Victorians were particularly fond of it. Those busy, industrialist forefathers who shot and stuffed everything and pinned thousands of butterflies to felt covered boards.
In Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Naval Treaty’, a character talks about roses and Providence.
‘Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra.’
Butterflies are often seen in a similar light, as serving no real purpose, as embellishments. But the butterfly pollinates the rose, the birds eat the caterpillar. And so on. Nature provides because each part of it gives, each to each. The amazing cycle of life.
This modest little butterfly left me asking big, urgent questions.
How can we stop taking and start giving?
How can we stop treating the world’s creatures as extras?
The Wildlife Trust is answering these questions. Let’s listen. Let’s learn.