With Eternity in View

Its nickname is assassin fly but, you are not in danger, it eats other insects. It does bite. Its bite is painful to humans, but they bite only when provoked. To other insects bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, beetles, and other flies-the robber fly is deadly.

In Latin this insect belongs to the family Asilidae. Approximately 1,000 species of Asilidae have been discovered in North America. Perhaps you’ve heard of robber flies. If not, you should know about them.

Robber flies are true predators in the insect world. From the larval stage produced from an egg laid on a low plant, or even in the soil a robber fly larva emerges to eat its way to adulthood. The way it eats is remarkable. The way it over winters as a larva in the soil is more. It freezes, yet lives on. The larva pupates in the soil. This stage can take from 1-3 years depending on the species of robber fly and the environment where it is found.

Why become excited about a robber fly? If overwintering in frozen soil does not impress you, its hunting prowess should. It captures its prey on the fly. Watch a bumblebee or butter fly, or even the lowly house fly. Attempt, if you can, to follow its flight for more than a second. Robber flies not only follow, they intercept these flying insects midair. Using exceptionally acute vision generated by their large compound eyes, they target their prey inflight with unfailing accuracy. Yes, it’s astonishing. There’s a problem though, robber flies are usually smaller than their prey. Now for the amazing.

Robber flies have long powerful, and bristled grasping legs. But, not strong enough to hold an insect larger than it is. Yet, just strong enough to hold the insect while the robber fly injects it with poisonous venom. Robber fly venom contains neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes. Think of it as a small dose of snake venom. In milliseconds this venom kills and liquefies the insides of the insect. The robber fly then perches on a nearby plant and consumes a liquified meal of insect parts and venom-but it lives!

An eternal reason to know about the robber fly it defies every human explanation for its existence.

Consider these facts you know:

  1. It kills other insects, yet the balance of insect life on earth is maintained.
  2. Exceptional vision…able to catch other flying insects in air! Its sight and instinct combined.
  3. Insect killing venom…that does not kill the robber fly, an insect itself.
  4. 1,000 species in North America, over 7,000 worldwide, each different, yet robber fly.

These attributes point us to the true origin of the robber fly, a Creator. Consider the questioning words of the prophet Isaiah who asked, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isaiah 40:28) A small, but amazing part of the “ends” of the earth is the robber fly. Its existence is unfathomable. You should know about it.

This more than about a fly. It’s about eternity. The robber fly points the way.

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Every Heartbeat

Every Heartbeat
 
This is about the heart. Break it down to a purely physical description, and describe it as “a hollow muscular organ that pumps blood through the circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation.” This is a start. There is significantly more to a heart. More physical detail helps. In humans there are 4 chambers, two atria, and two ventricles. A normal sized heart is comparable to a human fist and weighs about 10.5 ounces.
The average human heart rate is 60-80 beats per minute(bpm). DSC_0027ed
 
To understand the significance of the human heart rate let’s compare them with animal heart rates. A hibernating groundhog rate is 5 bpm. The Blue Whale 8-10 bpm. Horses have a bpm of 28-40. A mouse has a bpm of 450-750.
 
Invertebrate hearts are very different physically from humans. Insects are known to have an open circulatory system. Their internal organs “float” in blood. Insect blood is called “hemolymph.” Insects hearts are found in their abdomens. Usually there is a tube at the top of the insect’s back which has holes to take in the “hemolymph” and pump it towards the head.
 
Large insects like the bumble bee use the muscles of their wings to increase heart rate and blood flow and warm their bodies on cold mornings. This makes bumble bees important pollinators. They begin pollinating earlier in the day and continue longer as evening temperatures ground other pollinators. We do not know the heart rate of insects. Yet a honey bee flies at a rate of 15 mph and will travel up to 3 miles to collect plant nectar. Its heart rate must be elevated after such exertion.DSC_0023ed
 
What causes human hearts to beat rhythmically, steadily night and day for an average of 79 years? Do you ever need to tell your heart to beat? Medical science identifies the sinoatrial node as the “heart’s natural pacemaker.” This tiny cluster of specialized heart cells send electrical impulses which produce a heart-beat. It works for a lifetime.
 
Now the question behind what causes the heart to beat. What causes the sinoatrial node to send electrical impulses? DSC_0018ed
 
Have you ever taken your pulse, or placed your hand over your heart and felt your pulse? Yes, diet, stress and exercise impact heart health. But our hearts function a lifetime, and we have little to do with it. It’s really a miracle. My favorite shepherd who also was a king, David said of God, “Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16) God knows your heart. He made your heart and knew how many times it would beat-before you were born. That’s how powerful, how wonderful God is.
 
There is great comfort in this. Your heart beats free at no charge for you-all of life. God does that for you. God directs the sinoatrial node to function.
 
This is also about the heart that lives beyond death, your soul. He knows the number of your days. He knows the sin in your heart for each of those days. He did something for us about that. He sent His Son Jesus to clean our soul-heart, the eternal heart, from sin which separates us from God.
 
Consider the words of the shepherd/king once more, “From his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth— he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” (Psalm 33:14-16) God is in the heart business, yours and mine. He’s the ultimate expert in hearts.DSC_0045ed

Life Food

A walk outside is worthwhile. It is time spent wisely, and a slow walk in a wild place often yields surprises.
 
Two dear grandchildren needed something to do. In my naturalist voice, I said, “Let’s use our eyes, ears, noses, tongues and fingers and explore what’s happening in the backyard.”  It worked.
 
Ants, weren’t surprising. The rough bark of an ash tree-ordinary. Waiting for an Oriole to come to the grape jelly feeder-too long. We needed something exciting.
 
We went to our 16-year-old prairie garden. The Northern bedstraw is blooming. Monarda caught my eye first. We rolled leaves between our fingers and nibbled on the tips to taste. Then we saw it. It takes time to really see nature.
 
We found exciting. A green caterpillar with yellow and black polka dots below two long black strips down its back amazed us. My naturalist partners were mesmerized with me.
 
A search today disclosed the name of this nearly three-inch caterpillar. We were admiring a Bedstraw Hawk moth caterpillar. (Hyles gallii) At this size, the caterpillar is nearly ready to pupate. It will burrow beneath the prairie garden and spend the remainder of summer and all of next winter in the safety of the earth beneath the prairie. Next growing season it will emerge as an adult Bedstraw Hawk moth. Like the caterpillar, it will be large.  Its wingspan could be over 3 inches.
 
The Bedstraw Hawk moth lives on the nectar of monarda and other flowers. It is one of the 11,000 species of moths in the United States. It is true to its name. The female Bedstraw Hawk moth lays her eggs on the stems of Northern Bedstraw. Hatching caterpillars feed on Northern bedstraw. They live and grow eating this plant. While the adult Bedstraw Hawk moth pollinates Northern Bedstraw, its caterpillar dines on it and lives. Beautiful bedstraw is life food for Bedstraw Hawk moth caterpillars.
 
The Creator of both bedstraw and the Bedstraw Hawk moth ordered this relationship between plant and insect. Both organisms benefit, though the plant is partially eaten.
 
The same Creator has provided everlasting life food for humans. Jesus explained it this way.  He said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
 
Eating earthly bread will provide temporary nourishment. Jesus, the bread of life, provides each one of us with forever life. Life for eternity. As He created the beautifully designed Bedstraw Hawk moth caterpillar, His design for us is life-beautiful eternal life. Only He has the power to give it.

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Life Cycle

Whatever you label them, bug or pest, insects are intriguing. The unseen world of insects in our four-season climate is increasingly active. Warm temperatures and habitat increase the population of every insect species on a daily basis. In our tiny 16-year-old restored prairie insect life thrives. One day ago, the Crane Fly made its appearance. It looks like a giant mosquito. But it does not have the mouth parts to bite. Biologists believe there are about 15,000 different kinds of true crane flies, and the Crane Fly is a beneficial insect. House flies were in our prairie garden this morning too. With perfect conditions a pair of house flies may produce nearly 1 million young in two months. Delicate and beautiful Damselflies are also patrolling our prairie plot. With few exceptions damselflies spend a part of their life as larval predators in wetlands. Finally, in the same little prairie,

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Crane Fly
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House fly

the spittle bugs have begun forming their larval spittle mass. The foamy mass protects the larva which hatched from an egg laid the summer before. That means it spent the winter-frozen! There will be many other trips to our prairie, the insects there are more than intriguing. Each one is a living miracle.

These insects they have life cycles. Every insect on earth has one of two types of life cycles. Incomplete metamorphosis occurs in insects which have three stages in their life cycle. Egg-nymph-adult. Dragonflies, damselflies and grasshoppers are three insects with incomplete metamorphosis. The second type of insect life cycle is complete metamorphosis. The life cycle is egg-larva-pupa-adult. Insects we know in this group are the flies, butterflies, bees, and beetles. The spittlebug foam mass in our little prairie holds the spittle bug larva. The spittle bug has a complete metamorphosis life cycle.

We humans have life cycles too. Every human life culminates in what we describe with the word death. Perhaps you favor demise or passing. Yes, we will die. God has also determined all humans have an after-death destination. You might think of it as the final stage of the human life cycle. There are two after death destinations: heaven or hell. Unlike insects, humans have opportunity to determine before death which of these two destinations will be their eternal home. It is God’s desire that every human spend eternity in heaven with him. Imagine, the Creator of the universe wants you and me-to be with him-forever. Heaven is a perfect place because God dwells there. God is love. You will love heaven. But is it really possible to secure your place in heaven? The Bible tells us we can. A jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” (go to heaven) Paul answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (Acts 16) But you are thinking I am too awful for God to save me. Think again. In the book of Romans 8:1 we read, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” The end of every human life cycle can be one of eternal joy. Heaven is real. The way there is open to every human living today. Jesus opened the door. He waits at heaven’s gates with his arms open-for you.

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Damsel fly
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Spittlebug foam nest