A Beautiful, Very Dead, Moth

“Who could look at these pictures and not believe in God?” my Muslim friend asked. My Christian friend had expressed a similar idea as a statement. I wasn’t going to disagree with either one.

Figure 1: Digital Color Photo of Moth Body: The wing was pulled off, stuck onto an electron microscope stage, and coated with palladium.

Indeed! Insects are always interesting to look at in a scanning electron microscope. But the beauty of this dead moth far exceeded my expectations.

I save dead bugs when I see them, for educational purposes. This poor moth had been sitting around for quite a while, before I decided it’s time had come.

Figure 1 shows the moth in question, after I had broken off one of its outer wings, and taped it down to an electrically conductive specimen holder (aluminum) and sputter coated it with palladium to render it electrically conductive. A kindof boring motley brown, but surprising orange and white on the hidden pair of wings.

The moth wing was also surprising in how soft it felt when I broke it off.

If you zoom in to Figure 1, taken with a Olympus Tough Gear 5 digital camera, in microscope mode, you can see that the individual scales have different colors. This camera is currently available on Canon’s website for $500.00. It can do a lot of things. It will also take me a while to make it do what I want! (It’s pretty complicated.)

Figures 2 – 4 show additional views, obtained with my scanning electron microscope, at magnifications up to 6000x. But it is still impossible for me to tell if the “holes” are empty, or filled with a thin film of some sort.

Figure 2: Center of length of the wing
Figure 3: Note scalloped scale edges.
Figure 4: Note lacy structure. Are the holes empty or filled with some thin film?

Figure 5 shows the pointed end of the wing, where it used to be attached to the rest of the body.

Figure 5: The wing at the “shoulder” attachment point.


The different shapes of the feathery scales are beautiful. Figures 6 and 7 show how the scales are attached to the underlying shell of the insect.

Figure 6: Detail of how the individual scales are attached to the shell of the insect.
Figure 7: Broken off scale. How like a leaf!

I don’t know the cause of death of the moth. I found it whole, so maybe it simply came to the end of its life span. I’ll never know. But I honor the moth, the miraculous world we live in, and the “ugly beauty” of this plain insect.

Chrysalis Has Turned Dark

Butterfly’s orange and black wing pattern is now visible.

It won’t be long now!

Arrows show orange and black butterfly wing pattern through the now milky chrysalis.

High resolution version without the ugly arrows is shown below. The chrysalis seems to be sweating everywhere now. Note the profiles of the beads of “sweat” on the edges of the chrysalis as viewed here.

Arrows show orange wing pattern through the now milky chrysalis.

The monarch chrysalis is not only the archetypal symbol of transformation, it is the archetypal symbol of MYSTERY. Mystery has sometimes gotten a bad rap. It comes from parents and other authority figures acting like there is some reason other than their own personal preference as to why someone under their sway should do things the way the authority wants. That’s BS, to be “polite.” But there are enough real mysteries, and how a fat, slow moving, ever pooping caterpillar becomes a beautiful, weightless, never-know-where-it-will-be-in-a-second butterfly is one. Science has shed some light. There are microscopic life forms that carry the waste products out of the chrysalis and help air to diffuse in to the inner core of the insect’s body. But ultimately, even if we have all the DNA code, it’s a mystery, of the kind that drives curiosity, wonder, learning, and love.

Chrysalis Day 11

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis Day 11

Note the symmetry of the gold (secretions) and clear (water?) beads. Can you see the water droplets where it looks like the eyes might be forming?

The miracle of life! The joys of a close up camera lens… I found these bugs on the glass door to my office on June 26, 2011. So we are pretty seasonal here.

Who knows what these bugs are? But they are doing what they were made to do.









Detail of the loving couple.








EIGHT HOURS LATER, they were still on the door, but had apparently had enough of such intimacy.

Enough is enough!






2011 was a good year for bugs on my office door. I named this on “linoleum bug” since it’s pattern reminded me of said floor covering. Look at the shape of the head. Compare to what is visible toward the downward hanging end of the monarch chrysalis. Maybe two the gold spots are for antennae.

Head Shot: We think of beetles as hard shelled, and this kindof looked like some sort of beetle to me, but the color patches look more like feathers from up close. Note the blue rim at its “neck.”






Sroll down to the next post to see more views of the Monarch chrysalis.

The Archetypal Symbol of the Miracle of Transformation

Side View of Monarch Chrysalis, Day 10

Do you think you see?

What does seeing mean?

Do you think you see with your eyes only?

Look! Look at the glowing turquoise chrysalis.

Really see what is in front of your eyes.

See the butterfly forming inside.

See the black wing markings already taking shape.

See the gold spots.

Notice the gold spots.

(Click on the images to zoom in, they are high resolution.)

What do you see now?

Wing Markings of Monarch Butterfly









Please tell me what you see.

I found the caterpillar that became this chrysalis as it was climbing up my storm door on June 21, 2017.

I am pretty sure the spirit of my recently departed mother sent it to me. She was an Aquarius, which is an air sign, and thus symbolized by a butterfly, which moves in air.

These photos were taken July 1, 2017.

Front view of Monarch chrysalis. What are the water drops?

I’ll try to update the progress of the transformation.

By the way, the black blob at the top is the scrunched up remains of what was the caterpillar’s skin. Usually it falls away from the chrysalis, but this time it got caught in the threads the caterpillar spun to attach itself to the jar I put it in.

After you have looked at the photos, or gone out and found your own caterpillar, read up on how to take care of them. It’s pretty easy. I was lucky to have the bookSally’s Caterpillar when I was young. By the way, do not believe that you can download this book for free. A web search sent me to ahdio.co.uk/sallys/caterpillar/sallys_caterpillar.pdf which sent me to a bunch of other places and I got sucked into giving a credit card number but the file is NOT there. Maybe US residents are not allowed to see the file, but the book is apparently out of print.

You can also read or listen to my story (click on this link) about a little boy who finds a monarch caterpillar.