Yellow Jacket…Mini-sized Power

This is about power. This is about persistence. Tenacity describes our topic. Doggedness works too. This is about power in an insect. A persistent, tenacious, single-minded insect. It is an insect with a bite you will not forget. We fear spiders. This insect can bite repeatedly. The life goal of this insect is to reproduce more of its kind. In recent days, my personal experience with this insect allows me to speak with authority. This is one strong, never give up, never go away insect. Meet the Yellow Jacket.DSC_0027_639_ed_edited

Yellow Jackets do not have favorable memories for me. They have given me numerous painful bites. Most were my fault. Lately, a large number of them have made a nest in a very unfavorable location-in our hollow cement front step. Imagine, hundreds of highly aggressive insects living where guests to our home stand before being welcomed into our home. Painful bites are a very real possibility. This is not a great way to welcome our guests.

It has been necessary to remove them. To do so the nest must be destroyed. You may be shocked to read that my recent activities have included killing wildlife. But this is essential. There is a chance they will actually find a way into our house. Therefore, the skirmish with Yellow Jackets has been joined. My weapon of choice is Dawn dish soap. It removes the yellow jackets but is not as toxic to the environment.

While I have fought them on a daily basis in an attempt to eliminate them, these black and yellow striped one-half inch armored insect tanks have held their own. The Yellow Jacket or Vespula vulgaris is a social insect. The yellow jacket queen is larger than her progeny. By fall, a colony of yellow jackets may be as large as 2,000 to 4,000 winged and infertile females who do the job of nest-building (inside our front steps!). These female workers also bring food to the nest. Yellow Jackets are omnivorous, primarily eating other insects. However, they quickly find sugar filled sources of food. Flowers, fruits, and even soft drinks they can find outside become yellow jacket attractors.DSC_0045_643_edited

Since they are highly aggressive in protecting their nest, we are familiar with their throbbing, painful sting. Bad news, since their stingers are smooth-they can sting repeatedly. In the state of Colorado, 90% of alleged “bee stings” were caused by the yellow jacket.

Before we completely vilify the yellow jacket, know this: Yellow Jacket wasps are beneficial. They consume vast quantities of insects that are harmful to gardens, flowers even crops. They are carrion eaters as well, a part of “nature’s clean-up crew”.

There is another amazing thing about yellow jackets-they manufacture their own nest material by chewing wood fibers to create a gray, weather proof paper like material that protects the eggs and larva of the nest. Some nests can become very large. One nest is reported to have filled the inside of an abandoned car.

Power has been a subject we have thought about as we began this discusssion. How can such tenacity, such power be found in a tiny 6-legged insect? They have chewed through weatherizing caulk. They have pushed their way through the steel wool I have used to block their path to the nest. They do not give up. Get stung by one and you feel power in a memorable way!DSC_0065_644_edited

I will answer my own question. Yellow Jacket power comes from God. In Romans 1:20 we read these words of Paul, For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. What does the eternal power of God look like? Is it even possible to grasp the power of God? Look at the little yellow jacket.DSC_0074_645_edited

*Great news, the write/photographer was never stung when taking these photos!

No Tears, No Sickness or Pain, No Death

DSC_0011_543sigI spent 30 minutes in another world today. The world was in my backyard. Since it was in my backyard, this world contained earth residents. Once in this world, my feet never moved. Here my eyes found the Cup Plant ( Silphium perfoliatum) Most were over 10 feet tall with deep green leaves and brilliant yellow composite flowers. They made a world of their own. Their nectar and pollen drew other earth residents too. Just watching and listening, I saw a Two Spotted Bumblebee, a Long-Eared Bee, A large Yellow-jacket Wasp, Syrphid Flies and multiple Painted Lady Butterflies. A small white insect landed on my camera lens. In this miniature prairie planted by my own hands were multiple other life forms I never saw. Most were invertebrate. All were present because the little backyard prairie met their habitat needs. The bees and butterflies were there for food: nectar and pollen.

DSC_0017_544sigThis world was quiet. It was peaceful. Bees shared the same flowers with other bees and the butterflies. There was enough for all. I witnessed the same flowers visited over and over. The nectar continued to flow. There was no fighting, rather a visible harmony existed.

My heart was calmed. Peace settled on my own mind and soul. This happened steps from my backdoor.DSC_0056_548sig

This quiet place reminds me of another real place: heaven. There is peace and harmony there. No sickness or death ever occur in heaven. There will never be mourning, tears or pain. The peace of God is always there.  God’s peace passes understanding. We can spend eternity there-not just 30 minutes. Jesus paid the price of admission.DSC_0070_551sig

Painted Lady Irruption

Suddenly there were thousands of them. It was, in biologists’ terms, an irruption, a sudden sharp increase in the relative numbers of a population. My grandpa’s eyes had never witnessed such a dramatic increase. Unusual things like these a naturalist remembers and records. My experience has recorded nothing of this magnitude before. It may be a lepidopterist’s dream come true.

You ask what “irrupted”? You may be questioning the use of the word. The word irruption is not a mistake, the term is not “erupted”. An eruption is for volcanoes, and rashes. Our subject is an irruption of butterflies. The sudden appearance of thousands and thousands of Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui) to be specific.

As this holiday weekend began we had the privilege of traveling with 4 grandchildren across half the state of North Dakota to connect them with their cousins for a time with family. It is nearly 200 land miles, or 3 hours of driving time. On the outbound trip, there were thousands of painted ladies crossing the road headed south, likewise on the return trip. Even more astonishing, the return trip was 3 days later. How many butterflies flew southward during the time we were with family? When we returned there were still thousands flying. All were southbound. Arriving home last evening, we found dozens on the flowers of our postage stamp sized prairie. Today my 11 AM estimate was 40 butterflies. Most years there are 3 or 4. The large number is highly unusual, but within normal for the painted lady butterfly. From season to season, this butterfly has noticeable population increases and declines. The current irruption is massive and impressive, the largest in memory!DSC_0086 (2)sig

During these times of irruption, thousands to millions of individuals can be seen. Since they migrate close to the ground, just 6-12 feet above the surface, they are easily noticed. Most of the world’s population has had opportunity to see painted Lady butterflies since they are found on every continent in the world except Australia and Antarctica. Many painted ladies migrate from the south in spring before the more well-known migrator, the monarch butterfly arrives. Perhaps one reason painted ladies are found in almost all parts of the world is their ability to feed on many different types of plants. Few other butterflies will forage on such a wide range of flowering plants. Over 100 have been recorded. The painted lady butterflies in the photos were feeding on Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) flowers. Possibly a second reason there are so many painted ladies in our prairie garden is the great abundance of cup plants growing there. Painted Lady butterflies prefer composite flowers that are tall. Cup plant grows tall. The plants in the prairie garden tower more than 10 feet in height. Go ahead try to imagine dozens of painted ladies on tall yellow flowers. They too are pollinators, while they seek food for life, the plants they feed on are able to develop seed from the mix of pollen moved by butterfly feet, proboscis, and even wings.DSC_0029 (2)sig

From egg to prickly caterpillar, to chrysalis and on to adult, the painted lady really lives a life of mystery. There have been thousands of words written, hundreds of websites produced and thousands of school children studying the painted lady. Yet, it lives its life largely away from human attention. Most humans are unaware of the wildlife that lives just outside their homes. The coming change of season will move the painted lady butterflies to their winter places. It is why they are moving now. In spring the mystery is continued. It is reversed, painted lady butterflies will move northward.DSC_0024 (2)sig

The greatest naturalist the world has ever known was King Solomon. He spoke about plant and animal life to the kings of the world at the time. Solomon also reminded us that there is a God directed time for everything. He said, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”

This is the season of the painted lady.DSC_0114 (2)sigDSC_0023 (2)sig

 

One Without the Other

DSC_0081_510sig

You can’t have one without the other. This thought began today when my camera strap went around my neck. The air temperature was 68 F. That is important when your subject is invertebrates. Rain had fallen earlier, so insects were moving slowly.

After a few moments of observation, my subjects became the soldier beetle and showy goldenrod.

After taking their photos, my goal was to share them with you. Reading about them soon led me to the idea that, you can’t have one without the other. Without the pollinating work of the soldier beetles, there would be no showy goldenrod. Yet, without the showy goldenrod, there would be no soldier beetles.

Soldier beetles, like most insects, overwinter in the larval stage. Overwinter in some latitudes within beetle range means surviving average daytime temperatures of teens above zero and nighttime temperatures of 5 to -10 degrees F. (a range of -3 C to -22 C) Adult soldier beetles emerge from the pupa stage in later July to begin their life with pollen. Pollen of the goldenrod and other flowers blooming at this stage of summer is their food. If a flower blooms from mid-July till freeze up, it is likely a soldier beetle will visit it for a pollen dinner. Native plants have a symbiotic relationship with this common beetle. Both plant and insect benefit.

Showy goldenrod is beautiful. My favorite yellow is goldenrod yellow. This yellow is appealing to more than only my eyes. Many call this goldenrod the most attractive. This essential native plant grows throughout all of eastern and mid-western United States and in Manitoba and Ontario. It is a beneficial food source for butterflies. But, there is another one without the other showy goldenrod relationship. This is the most important one. It’s about when showy goldenrod blooms.

DSC_0083_511sig

It is not chance that brings showy goldenrod into bloom when the soldier beetles hatch from the pupa they were in during early summer. These two natural events occur almost simultaneously with symbiosis the goal.

Yes, there are many more “one without the other” relationships.  A few that may come to mind are:

  1. Loyalty and trust
  2. Experience and wisdom
  3. Success and sacrifice
  4. Happiness and peace of mind
  5. A beginning an end
  6. A healthy environment without predators
  7. Healthy forests or prairies and fire
  8. Flowers and pollinators
  9. Rivers, lakes or oceans and water
  10. Life and death
  11. Forgiveness of sin and Jesus

One without the other relationships are part of all human existence. But, number 11 is the only eternal one without the other relationship. We may ignore our conscious. When we do, we can ignore the fact that we sin. Yet, we fall short of God’s standards for humans every time. Sometimes ignoring our sin is less painful. But ignoring our sin is just a Band aid. Ignoring may cover-it up, but our sin is still there. Jesus came to earth to take away our sin. We cannot have our sin forever removed without Jesus. This is the one without the other relationship that matters for eternity. Everything else is trivia in comparison. One that has power to make the showy goldenrod and soldier beetle emerge at the same time of year has power to forgive your sins. We can’t have one without the other. The most important “one without the other?” It is forgiveness of sins and Jesus.

 “Brothers (and sisters), listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Acts 13:38  

DSC_0078_509sig

Superhero

Super heroes attract. A superhero has extraordinary powers. Most super heroes do extraordinary good for people.

DSC_0153_442sig

We are fascinated with them. There is another truth, superheroes are fictional.

But, not all of them. This is about a real superhero, actually many of them. They are called bumblebees.

Our superhero flies, just like most fictional heroes. It is not fast though. Top speeds are about 16 yards per second. (that’s about 32 mph) Most superheros are strong. So are Bumblebees. They can fly because they have powerful thorax muscles they vibrate. The thorax can vibrate a bumblebee’s wings between 130 to more than 200 times-per second-for real.

Contrary to fictional heroes, our superhero does not live alone. Bumblebee colonies grow larger as the summer season progresses. Between 50 and 500 bumblebees may work in unison in the same colony. These superheros accomplish much more than their solo and fictional counterparts.

Ability to be frozen fits in super hero caliber. As a queen bee emerges from a winter of hibernation beneath frozen ground she searches for a suitable nest site. She lays her eggs underground, usually in an abandoned and already fur-lined rodent hole. He first young to hatch are daughters. They feed the colony. They are superheros as well. Female bumblebees carry pollen in baskets called corbicula on their rear legs, another superhero feat. Unlike honeybees, a bumblebee colony only needs enough honey to live through cold summer days when they cannot fly because of rain and cold temperatures. Bumblebees can fly in cooler temperatures and in lower light than other bees-superhero again. Just one additional thing: other insects pollinate, the bumblebee with its muscular thorax can pollinate flowers by buzzing. It is called buzz pollination. The female bumblebee grabs the pollen structure of the flower and buzzes. This dislodges more pollen for the bumblebee-and the flower is pollinated.

 

Super heroes do extraordinary things. But, they are fictional, and given their powers through the imagination of a human mind. As pollinators, bumblebees do super things in real-time every day of the growing season. They are critical to our human world food supply. Bumblebees however are not the figment of a human mind. They are the creative genius of God. No human mind could develop an insect like the bumblebee. Not only does it possess superhero characteristics, the bumblebee provides a life service to thousands of plants and we humans.

The Creator of the bumblebee has beyond superhero status-He is God.

 He counts the stars    and calls them all by name. How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension! Psalm 147:4-5

There is a most logical way to explain the bumblebee; earthly super heroes require an almighty beyond comprehension Creator.