I run through a field of butterflies.
Sun-kissed wings brush my arms. Delicate. Glowing. White. I must be in heaven.
“They’re not butterflies. They’re moths,” she said.
Pests to society. Destroying the world.
Life is what you see.
I see butterflies.
One-million white wings, blowing in the wind, fluttering.
The eye of a storm of butterflies
“Next…It’s your turn to see God.”
This is heaven’s door… No gate, just white swirls all around.
“I hate these moths,” she says. “Lucky they’ll be gone soon.”
Life is what you see. Joy is what you feel.
I see butterflies.
So I feel joy.
The Seven Plagues of Summer
The First Plague: Caterpillars
My street is the Hollywood set for a New England horror movie. It’s a remake of Hitchcock’s “Birds.” Crows were on strike so they booked gypsy moths.
“There are a lot of caterpillars,” I noticed one day.
By the next day, they’d been dumped by the planeload all over town, every square inch covered–the house, garage, driveway, and road. Going for a jog was impossible–like one of those football tire drills, each step off center avoiding bugs, trying not to leap in front of a passing truck as caterpillars swung around from every angle.
Riding and running–impossible. I can’t step on them. Crunch! Makes me vomit. Always has.
I stayed inside for a month, braving the garden once a day to spray. Double-holstered enviro-friendly poisons like a sheriff in a Spaghetti Western, dousing everything that moved at high noon.
Quick as possible I ran inside, double bolting the door.
“You can hear them eating the leaves,” someone said.
I never would’ve guessed how loud leaf-chomping poop-dropping caterpillars could be.
By the end of June, half-eaten leaves and pine needles littered yards and streets. Trees were bare like a cold November day, except it’s summer. It was all wrong–the after-hurricane pine, green leaf piles. Everything was off sync.
“They’ll be gone by the time I come back from vacation,” said my friend.
The plague took about a month. Now, the caterpillars are moths.
The Second Plague: Moths
I can go outside without panicking–no more caterpillar guts, just thousands of moths. It’s odd, a dream state where I’m walking through a field of heaven’s white butterflies. I stop and marvel–every square inch of the air is filled with fluttering, where two weeks ago these same creatures covered every flat and vertical space.
Nature really does know how to throw a party.
In truth, it’s kind of pretty, hundreds of white things, flying around in circles, either drunk or lost. But it’s next year’s invasion, two stages away. I’m the hero in this horror movie. They all must die.
The Third Plague: Egg sacks
I saw a moth egg sack. Soon, they’ll be everywhere–next year’s tree eaters resting for winter.
This means war.
I have sprayers ready. I’ll fill one with a 1:1 ratio of soybean oil and water to suffocate the eggs. Another, with 50/50 bleach-water spray–bleach kills everything. The farmer down the road suggested half-Dawn dish soap, half water. I’ll use them all for good luck.
For every egg sack I kill, I’m eliminating 500-1000 caterpillars next year.
It’s a good life lesson–You do the hard work upfront but you don’t see the payoff for a while. Trust that it’s there.
Fourth Plague: Every other bug in the garden
I’ve been so frightened by the caterpillar plague I’ve forgotten about my arch-enemy, the squash beetle. It’s early, but I haven’t seen one–probably because I sprayed the caterpillars so often. For three years, beetles have been messing with my cucumbers, squash, and zucchini. That’s gardener shame. If you kill zucchini, you’re not worth the patch of dirt you plant on.
The Fifth Plague: Zucchini
Since I haven’t been in the garden in a month, I didn’t notice the zucchini invasion. They’ve survived!
Three big zucchini and a ton of blossoms. There’s no question in my mind, I’m going to need to write a “How to Survive Your Zucchini,” cookbook soon.
I stir fry one, make another into an egg scramble, and dip a third in hummus. Then, for good luck, I bake two zucchini breads. Zucchini’s God’s gift to food–it can be salad, appetizer, main meal, or dessert, and it freezes well grated for zucchini breads or baked as zucchini parm.
This is a welcome plague.
The Sixth Plague: Eggs
Another excess that makes me smile.
When we got our chickens, we didn’t count on keeping them all alive. We were learning. So, we got extra. They survived. They’re busy laying eggs and rolling in dirt. It’s what chickens do.
We’re getting close to a dozen eggs a day. That’s a lot of custard, eggs-over-medium, and omelets. I eat eggs every day–they make it possible to almost entirely live off my land like I hoped.
The Seventh Plague: Spare Time
I’ve been looking forward to summer all year. I’ve needed it.
Then, when it comes, it’s overwhelming. Too much concentrated spare time.
“What do I do now?” Write. Run. Garden. Project. Work. Fun. Build. Research. Travel. Cook. Can. I’m all over the place. It all works out in the end. Soon enough my schedule won’t be mine anymore, and I’ll wish a few of these extra days could be sprinkled throughout the year.
Someday, life will work like that.
But for today, I enjoy. The worst of the plagues are over. Now, abundance remains. Time, food, sun, and fun.
Thank you, Mother Nature. I’m grateful. Even if you do send a few too many bugs now and again.
I am glad out here in Tucson AZ we don’t have to worry about those gypsy moths! I remember as a kid every word you wrote here…. They invaded and it was like a horror film! I truly miss New England for so many reasons. I also don’t miss my home state for many reasons like the moths, snow, slushy mushy March .
God, I hate them… I super hate them with a passion. That reminds me I forgot to buy the spray for the trees–there will still be a million more but I will spray my egg infested trees before winter!
Moths are beneficial as they are pollinators and the caterpillars a food source for birds, frogs and bats.
We got hit so hard with them that all the trees were stripped. Many crops were lost and it took a good several weeks for the trees to releaf. It was really awful.