Today we saw a monstrously huge, prehistoric-looking butterfly at Nanzenji.
Having sweated our way through the temple gardens, we grabbed a cool drink and
went to sit by a pond. As I downed an ice cold soda a shadow swept over
us, blocking out the sun. I squinted at the immense descending silhouette, the largest butterfly
I have ever seen in my life. As it swooped down the draft from its
wings sent our bikes tumbling and sand and gravel flying at us,
much like the effect of helicopter blades. Diving for cover, we watched as it dove through bushes and over a
wall, barely able to lift it's massive body. I have seen
Butterflies were originally moths but because their nocturnal habits got them eaten by bats, some sparked upon the idea of waking during the day and in the sunlight realised that their wings were pretty drab, so set about making themselves a little more glamorous. The butter in butterflies comes from the abundance of yellow ones when the Anglo-Saxons invaded the shores of England. As yellow as butter. Japan has tropical heat in the summer and humid heat breeds enormous insects, much like you would see in a 1960s Harryhausen movie. Mothra in the Godzilla series is really no jump of the imagination. Yet when I think I have finally come to terms with Japanese bugs, one appears to horrify me. After doing a little research I found out that the monster we saw was a Swallowtail Butterfly, of the Papilio Macilentus subspecies. In Summer they grow to huge proportions and are found across Eastern Asia. Called Onaga-ageha in Japan, the name translates as Long Tail.
Butterflies can only see red, green and yellow. Their top speed is 12mph, though moths are much quicker at 25mph. With 24,000 species of butterflies and 140,000 of moth, Antarctica is the only place on the earth that they do not live. Most butterflies live for less than 9 months (excluding their time as caterpillars). Some moths never eat anything as adults because they don't have mouths. They must live on the energy they stored as caterpillars. Many taste with their feet to test whether leaves are good or bad. Butterflies have skeletons on the outside of their body to keep moisture inside.