Beware the Butterfly Brigade

Painted lady butterfly resting on a plant
Painted lady butterly

Warning: This is not a post for vegans. Or nature lovers. Or anyone easily grossed out.

I am so whole-heartedly overcome with disgust right now...

Yesterday was a beautiful spring day, and my parents and I took full advantage of it to roam around one of the Ashdod beaches. We walked on the boardwalk and observed the people in their Purim costumes. We enjoyed the fresh air, the sun, the sea. We noted the unusual bounty of butterflies fluttering by. 

It seems that every few years, painted lady butterflies migrate en masse from Saudi Arabia to Greece, their peregrination route taking them through Israel. One report had them passing through the country at a rate of 25,000 butterflies per hour. It's a fascinating occurrence, especially since no one knows what provokes this phenomenon. 

As we meandered back from the beach, through a park, and some parked cars, I happened to notice one car in particular. The front (vertical) part of its hood was covered in orange-y yellow splotches. 

"Hmmm," I thought, "... not birds. A tree?... but how are the splotches primarily on the vertical part of the hood instead of uniformly scattered around the horizontal parts of the car, as when goo* is dropped by trees?"

Just call me Sherlock Holmes. (Although unlike Sherlock, I promptly put it out of my mind.) 


Today, I drove back to Jerusalem, through the flowering fields of the Shfela ("Lowlands") and the blooming hills of Jerusalem. Driving in Israel, as I have chronicled before is not for the faint of heart. Especially today. Because ALL throughout my drive, I was hitting butterflies. 

"Splotch," went one big yellow mass on my windshield. I wiped it away. "Smash," went another one. I wiped that one away. "Splat," went yet another butterfly... That was my drive home. In addition to the ones striking the windshield, I heard the constant "tick-ticking" of the butterflies hitting the body of the car, and was sick to my stomach with each and every one. I was so relieved to finally reach my home. 

According to the New York Times, "When the painted ladies smash into a windshield, the result is a glob of yellow, butter-like ooze. That’s the result of the butterfly’s stored fat, used to make the long journey north."


It's just one of those things, that as a native speaker you often tend not to question the language or think of its etymology. 

But now I know why they're called butterflies.

* I don't know the proper term. It may not surprise you to discover that plant sciences was one of my weakest subjects while studying for my Bachelor of Science.


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