Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes)

This is the late Theodore (Theo to close friends and family). How did I meet him, you ask? Let me share with you our glorious tale of friendship…


It was last Friday.

There I was, walking home unaccompanied (gasp) from the train station in all my college-student-turned-pack-mule glory. I was contemplating the secrets of the universe, wondering about the meaning of life, questioning why didn’t I ever listen to my father and “pack lighter”??

It was a painful trek; the sun was glaring red fury at the world, the sky was cloudless, hot gusts of wind buffeted me on the left and searing exhaust from passing vehicles attacked me from the right.

In summary, it was gross. I had regrets.

I have a strong suspicion that sweat on my skin was actually the remnants of my brain evaporating from my pores, the heat was so bad. My power was divided between cowering under my umbrella-turned-parasol, and keeping my feet moving along the sidewalk.

And that’s when I noticed him. A flutter of black wings, a glint of gold and blue. Six little legs scrambling, trying to hold onto the pavement. The wind was dragging him along the ground without mercy, pulling him toward the blacktop and the cars that roared across it. The Angel of Death clawed at him through the wake of each passing vehicle.

I waited until the first break in traffic to scoop him off the curb. He clambered onto my hand willingly, crawled up my arm, then finally latched onto my shoulder. I decided to take him home with me, since he seemed content to stay where he was. Talking to him kept me sane during that last part of my walk home, and in a moment of heat-muddled creativity, I named him Theodore.

We had many adventures together this past weekend. He practically lived on my shoulder, which amazed both myself and my family. We had never seen such a still butterfly, although Theo proved to be as clumsy as any human, in his own way: such as when he was startled, or decided flapping his injured wings as he walked across my arm was a good idea. It really wasn’t, but he was cute like that.

I researched everything I could think of about his species, visited butterfly forums online, searching for information on how to care for him and compiling a mental list of everything I could possibly do to keep him alive.

I started keeping a little Theo journal, detailing everything that happened like an overly excited mother who just had her first child. Because when would another opportunity to care for such an amazing little creature come around?

And from what I could see, he was an older butterfly (I called him “my retired little aviator”) and didn’t have much longer to live.

I turned out to be right when I woke up on Monday, and my parents told me he had passed during the night.

I never thought I would actually get emotional over a butterfly, but there you have it, folks.

iNaturalist Observation

Damselfly (Suborder Zygoptera)

A striking blue exoskeleton, lovely wings, adorable bug eyes. If I could transform into a tiny insect, I’d probably choose to be a Damselfly.

The patience of this insect was otherworldly. It was as though Mother Nature had finally taken pity on my failing motivation and sent him to just sit there, while I got all close and personal and took as many pictures as I wanted.

And no, he wasn’t dead. I poked him, he flitted about, came right back.

Good little insect.

Then again, it could have just been a creature from the Netherworld in disguise, doing reconnaissance on the nearby human population. I would have asked, but I don’t normally go around pestering mysterious beings for their personal information. I need good karma as much as anyone.

Either way, once I spotted him I dropped to the ground, lying flat on the road as I army-crawled towards him. No worries for my safety: the road was a dead end and the construction workers had left for the day, except for one man who was still loading things into a truck.

Thank you, Mr. Construction Man, for bearing with my oddness each time I wander through.

iNaturalist Observation

Texas Thistle (Cirsium texanum)

I couldn’t ignore the sight of this plant. It’s tall, has prickly leaves, and above all… it sports a fuzz flower at the top that’s my favorite color.

Quite an eye catcher. Still, I had planned to dismiss it as a potential observation, because look at those leaves. It’s just a weed. Then I thought, well what kind of weed is it? It has to have a name. Let’s find it.

The search process:

  1. Post an image to iNaturalist
  2. Google “tallish weed purple flower”
  3. Wait for an identification notification and then compare findings.

The results:

Turns out it’s called a ‘Texas Thistle.”

Thistle huh? That’s a word I honestly haven’t heard in years, and it made me smile. It’s fun to say, and the name itself made complete sense to me. Not on some scientific level, though.

It made sense to my inner child, who still remembers what each Winnie-the-Pooh character loved to eat. And Eeyore loves thistles. Flashback after flashback of watching that adorable donkey munching on those prickly plants with their fluffy purple offshoots flashed through my mind, and I started to laugh.

I am so sorry, Eeyore, for having forgotten your favorite food.

Dishonor on me and my cow, and I promise to remember from now on.

iNaturalist Observation

Gray Hairstreak Butterfly (Strymon melinus)

There were so many butterflies in the field, I couldn’t walk anywhere without nearly running into pairs of them flying in spirals, or rousing some from the grass near my feet. I chased this tiny grey one around for a while, trying to get close enough to snap a picture.

Eventually he landed with the sun illuminating his profile, and I managed to get a few shots with the pattern on his wings showing. After getting a good look at the images in the shade, I decided that the Gray Hairstreak butterfly is one of my favorites.

Let me list a few reasons why: Tiny body, easily hidden in the grass, and so fuzzy. I also just love how alien he looks with his white head, slanted black eyes, and striped antennae. I’m constantly in awe of nature’s designs.

iNaturalist Observations

Unidentified Orange and Black Butterfly

Orange and black butterfly, still unidentified. I want to say it’s a Monarch Butterfly, going by the black corner of its wing speckled with white. But I’m overly cautious and the picture quality isn’t the best, so I’m leaving it for some other butterfly enthusiast to determine. I’m surprised I even snapped a photo of it, it wouldn’t sit still.

iNaturalist Observation

Stinkbug (Superfamily Coreoidea)

This fella was sitting on a driveway I was walking past with my siblings. My older brother identified it immediately as a stinkbug (he and my parents have a long history with them). When it comes to most things nature related, I don’t question him.

I would have liked to stay far away from it, but alas, we had to use ourselves as human shields to keep our little siblings back, lest it release its foul-scented scourge upon us.

Because for some reason, they thought it sounded like a good idea to try and scare it, just to see if it would actually stink up the place.

How about no.

That’s what the zoom on a camera is for, friends.

iNaturalist Observation

Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)

This is my parents’ favorite flower, so I knew I had to ‘identify’ one for a blog post. I didn’t know that they were called Indian Blankets though – I had grown up thinking they were Indian Paintbrushes. There is now an ongoing debate back home about the correct name, which I find amusing. Either way, they’re lovely flowers. The tough stems make them perfect for small bouquets, flower chains, and flower crowns.

And here’s a little wildflower bouquet I made on my walk back from the open fields I did my observations in:

iNaturalist Observation

Conifer – Ashe Juniper (Juniperus ashei)

I’m always curious about the names of those little shrubby trees that pop up everywhere, so I thought hey, why not take a photo of one and post it. There’s gotta be a scientist somewhere that’ll see it and think ‘Yes, this is my jam. I know these trees, identifying them is my thing.’

Once the picture was posted, I rewarded myself with a little pat on the back and a snack for my contribution to Science. A short while later, I decided to check in on the identification process. And I nearly smacked my forehead when I got a notification that another iNaturalist identified it as belonging to the “conifer” group. Cue a mild case of embarrassment. Of course, it’s a conifer. Thinking on it, I haven’t heard/read that word in a few years. Which I find ridiculous, but in my defense, I don’t think I know people who use that word casually (around me, at least).

‘Oh my, what a lovely conifer.’ That sounds… so sarcastic in my head. Anybody else read that with an accent?

Anyhoo, trees are cool. This dude is a conifer. And I’m always amazed at plants that survive any/all Texas weather. You go conifers. You’re awesome. You keep doing what you do, surviving the elements. I’ll just keep enjoying my indoor habitation unit (read: my room).

iNaturalist Observation