Don’t Judge a Bug by its Larva

Many years ago, when my children were very little I had an enormous kitchen garden. It is a great trick to get small children to eat vegetables, if they grow them so they will eat! It is also a great way to learn about biodiversity, life cycles, nature and oneself.

In the early fall we would buy ladybugs to release into the garden. Just at twilight we would go into the garden and carefully shake thousands of sleepy ladybugs out under the plants, hoping to get lucky and have ten percent or so stay. We did this many times over the course of a few weeks and then we waited through the fall and the winter to see how many had decided to stay and make our garden their permanent home.

The spring after the first time we did this I was out in the garden tending the early crop when I found an abundance of a new bug. We already had a healthy population of aphids and I had invested heavily in ladybugs in the hope of thinning that herd so I was not thrilled to see that I had something new and ominous looking that was crawling all over the plants. They were no longer than a centimeter or two and looked like tiny black crocodiles with an orange blaze across the back. There were a lot of them and they were busy for sure, I found some attached to the underside of leaves clearly starting on the process of metamorphosis. I clipped a leaf with a specimen and hurried down to the nursery.

“Oooh, ooh, oooh,” said the nursery attendant, “you got lucky and the ladybugs stayed. These are the larva.” And it was just like that, instantly the thing to be feared because it was unattractive, menacing, and a supposed threat became a welcome delight. I had ladybug larva all over the place, and as it turns out just like the adolescents of our very own species they will eat far more aphids everyday than their adult counterparts.

Today as I was driving to the airport with my husband I saw a large, rather unattractive beetle-like creature moving along the collar of his jacket. I tried to gently capture it in a tissue. The creature was apparently softer than it appeared, or I am stronger than I think, and insides oozed to the outside. I was distraught because I had not intended to hurt this thing, and I knew that I had no idea what it might become.

Bugs can make me a little nervous and some certainly gross me out. But I don’t dislike them as a rule and I have an enormous respect for the way in which we all serve each other, and they us to a much greater degree than we acknowledge. And maybe that is what I am trying to say, something about judgment and ego and beauty and values. I did not like the tiny crocodiles because I did not know what they were, and then I found them a joy, they made me smile whenever I saw them, I eagerly hoped they would appear. I changed, they remained what they always were; this is the opportunity we have to be our best selves and to give others that same room; we can acknowledge what we know and that our knowledge is limited, we can acknowledge what makes us uncomfortable and learn how to shift our experience of that feeling, we can allow the time to become and let the beauty that was always there be what we share with the world.

Bugs are such an easy example for our potential. The swallowtail butterfly starts life by eating your carrot tops down to nubs. The giant green tomato caterpillars with the red hook on their head become a magnificent moth the size of my hand. We fail to see the magic in these things and cut off the possibility for greatness too soon. You just never know what something can become.

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