If you follow Wings, Worms, and Wonder on social media, especially Instagram, you may be up on all the caterpillar action around my house. It’s gulf fritillary galore around here. The past month I’ve luckily played host to about 20 caterpillars, 4 of which made it to chrysalis state, and 3 so far who have hatched and flown away. I have been through this process in the classroom many times, but there has been something different about it this time.
Maybe because it was at home and more spontaneous, maybe because they were just outside on my plants rather than cooped up in a closed container inside, maybe because it was the first time the children helping me had cared for caterpillars, but for whatever reason I enjoyed the process a lot more this time.
This caterpillar experience coupled with the book I just finished, The Lost Language of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner, has me thinking, more than usual, about the web of life and the cooperation and communication it takes between all species to keep the web balanced. In Buhner’s book I learned a ton about the way that plants communicate with each other and other species through the biochemicals they release. I even got a question about the butterflies answered!
So much eating and pooping!!
I was wondering what the passion vine gets out of being eaten up by caterpillars and why do they not eat it to death? Did you know that many plants actually need to be eaten back a certain percent to thrive? They emit one biochemical to attract insects to lay eggs on the plants and once they have been eaten back enough, the plant will emit a different biochemical that tastes bad to the caterpillars and tells them to eat from another plant.
I even noticed that as my passion vine plant began to get very eaten, the butterflies stopped laying so many eggs on it and lizards appeared and started eating some of the eggs and tiny caterpillars. Last week a wasp even killed one of the largest caterpillars. It was a real murder scene with guts and body parts everywhere, but who am I to feel bad for the caterpillar? The wasp needs to eat too!
Wing drying is a vulnerable time for butterflies. This terrarium has an open roof, but walls to keep hungry lizards and wasps at bay.
Cooperation is a skill we work to teach the children in our lives, and continue to work on ourselves. Valuable for survival as well as happiness, we humans could learn a few lessons on cooperation from our plant and animal siblings.
In an effort to keep the web in balance, today I offer wonder sparking cooperation inspiration. Whether in the way the plant communicates with the butterflies and caterpillars, the way the dolphins in the video below work together to fish, or the bird and wasp bystanders make good use of another species’ work, we are all here in the web together, and with a little help from wonder, we can cooperate to preserve the beauty and biodiversity for generations to come.
I used to live in Savannah and I sure wish I had seen this in person!
I invite you to slow down and make time for wonder to flow into life. From dolphins and low tides to butterflies to and host plants, nature and wonder never disappoint!
How do you make time for wonder?
What questions have come up from your observations?
Share them in the comments below, maybe we have the same ones!
Spark our wonder by sharing your nature cooperation pics on Instagram #wingswormsandwonder
Seeds to Sprout:
Teach cooperation through fun and games, outside if you can! When we can cooperate with each other we have a better chance of extending those cooperative behaviors to other species. Get started with 6 cooperative games.
See more dolphins cooperating. In this video they help human fishermen catch fish.
A quick fact sheet on natural dolphin behavior from NOAA.
Georgia’s low country will definitely spark wonder, cooperation, and a slow down!
(Photo credit: Discovery YouTube)