Why we are here:

Our signature Bible passage, the prologue to John's Gospel, tells us that Jesus (the Logos) is God and Creator and that He came in the flesh (sarx) to redeem His fallen, sin-cursed creation—and especially those He chose to believe in Him.

Here in Bios & Logos we have some fun examining small corners of the creation to show how great a Creator Jesus is—and our need for Him as Redeemer. Soli Deo Gloria.


Friday, June 29, 2007

A Mighty Chitin-clad Machine

What a bug! Sorry, not a bug (Order Hemiptera) but a beetle (Order Coleoptera). It’s the Red Milkweed Beetle, Tetraopes tetraophthalmus. Both Genus and species names suggest that it has four eyes. And as you can see, it looks like it does (Click photo to enlarge). Actually, the antenna is mounted in the middle of the eye, splitting it into upper and lower portions—a strange arrangement, but it works for this insect—and gives it a really long scientific name.

Many of the visitors to the milkweed (this one is walking on unopened buds) are red or orange with black markings, a way of telling potential munchers, “don’t eat me—I taste bad!” The Monarch Butterfly and the Orange Milkweed Bug (that one IS a true bug) are other examples.

They actually DO taste bad because they feed on various parts of the milkweed plant, which produces some very potent chemicals, which in turn become concentrated in the bodies of the insects. So any bird or other predator quickly learns to avoid orange or red things for lunch, at risk of gagging, throwing up or even dying. And lest you should be intimidated by the appearance of this fellow, be aware that it is a mere ½ inch in length—macro photography can be deceiving.

Even at a half-inch, this beetle is impressive, totally armor-plated in chitin, a tough compound related to cellulose and forming the exoskeletons of all arthropods. It’s tough, yet flexible enough to allow movement in the insect’s six jointed legs, its chewing mouth parts and its long, jointed antennae. The armor, while passive in itself, is empowered by strong internal muscles and well coordinated by a sophisticated nervous system.

That should remind us to not only keep our Ephesians 6 armor on but also to be motivated by the Holy Spirit within—more powerful than chitin, muscles and nerves, that’s for sure.

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:11-17 NKJV)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Misty Sunrise at Lake Appert

Sunrise? What’s that?

This morning, I was determined to use the sunrise hours for other than coffee and crossword puzzle. I hit the road and arrived at the Celery Farm at six. I waded through a herd (too cow-like to call it a flock) of Canada Geese, repeating “excuse me, boys; excuse me ladies” and receiving grunts in return. I climbed Warden’s Watch, greeted the just-risen Sun, and enjoyed an hour of solitude, ever-changing sight and sound and a time in God’s Word.

Romans Chapter 8 exhorted me to not be lulled by the beauty of the sunrise, reminding me that God’s perfect creation is full of beauty, yet it is marred and under the corruption of sin—but that redemption is near.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:18-23 NKJV) When reading Romans 8 it’s difficult to read just a portion. So read the the the whole thing for yourself, even if you are not enjoying a Lake Appert sunrise.

Now to the coffee and crossword. One across, "small branch". Ah, a sprig. Now I’ll take a swig—of java.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Splash of Color

Cabbage Whites are delicate gems, as are all butterflies, and are beautifully engineered and adapted to their food species and for slurping nectar from a variety of flowers. The one thing the CW lacks, however, is vibrant color. But the day after the spectacular CW light show brought that splash of color in the form of a perfect specimen of the Red Admiral.

The Red Admiral is not an officer in the Russian Navy as its name may suggest; it is one of the more common butterflies in our area and one of the few that I can identify without frantically thumbing through a field guide.

The National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Butterflies has a couple of interesting statements about Vanessa atalanta:

“Unmistakable and unforgettable, the Red Admiral will alight on a person’s shoulder day after day in a garden.” I must say that this particular specimen had no intention of doing that. It rested first on bare ground and then on the leaf where I photographed it, with some difficulty because it was several feet away and unapproachable because of the intervening poison ivy.

“In midsummer it is not unusual to see them chasing each other or Painted Ladies just before a thunderstorm or at dusk.” This one was a loner. Maybe that statement would apply to a Russian naval officer, but this insect just sat a spell and all too quickly flew out of sight into a nearby thicket. (Just in case you wondered, the Painted Lady is another butterfly, closely related to the Red Admiral.)

Anyway, the color splash provided by this lovely Lepidopteran made me quickly change lenses and still fail to get a perfect shot. It only gave me a few seconds of shooting time before it decided to leave.

Maybe there will be more butterfly photography opportunities as the summer progresses.

Prayer for patience is a constant requirement, both in photography and blogging.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Of Cabbages and...Cabbage Whites

In a recent post, fellow blogger Jim W. reminded us that even though the Cabbage White butterfly is so common a sight that we usually don’t give it a second thought or look, it is yet a marvelous creature. (Give the pictures a click.)

This morning, as I once again made tracks to the milkweed patch, I was given a special visual treat. Not far from the milkweeds is a large stand of another fascinating plant, the Indian Hemp, a relative of the dogbanes. This morning, that stand was alive with scores—perhaps hundreds—of Cabbage Whites, fluttering from flower to flower and plant to plant, producing a spectacular glittering light show. These butterflies may be common, but this morning they put on a decidedly uncommon display.

Other than being common, what else is there to know about Cabbage Whites? First, they’re not native. They were stowaways on freighters from Europe in the 1860s, landing in Quebec. From there they have become ubiquitous throughout North America—everywhere except the extremely cold north.

Second, as their name suggests, they—that is their larvae—eat cabbage leaves, as well as the leaves of most other members of the cabbage family, that is, the Crucifers (or Brassicas.) That means they are not popular with farmers and gardeners who try to grow those plants for fun and profit.

That’s the way it is with aliens, as we mentioned before in our post on Garlic Mustard. A species introduced into a new area devoid of its natural enemies will exploit the situation and grow out of control, to the detriment of native species and the environment in general. It happens every time. Just look at the Celery Farm Natural Area. As you walk along its paths you will see mostly aliens, at least at the understory level—Japanese Knotweed, Japanese Barberry, Tartarian and Japanese Honeysuckles, Multiflora Rose—and of course, the infamous Garlic Mustard. Not that some of those species aren’t attractive and even beneficial as wildlife food and shelter, but they have certainly crowded out or done other nasty things to many of our native plants.

One success story in battling the invaders has been the introduction of tiny Gallerucella beetles to munch on the leaves of Purple Loosestrife. That biological control has virtually saved the Celery Farm from ecological disaster.

Now let’s see. Garlic Mustard is a member of the same family as cabbage. So why aren’t those Cabbage White caterpillars munching on their leaves? Could it be chemical warfare? More research needed.

In the meantime, let’s at least enjoy the magnificence of insect engineering and beauty—and even a light show like the one I witnessed—as examples of God’s creative handiwork and His power in sustaining His fallen, sin-cursed cosmos. After all, at least in the setting of the Celery Farm, the fluttering Cabbage Whites and their leaf-munching larvae are one of our lesser concerns. (Unless someone more expert in the field knows better—let me know.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Magnificent Milkweed

Is that an oxymoronic title? I think not. Ascleplias syriaca has an undeserved common name—the Common Milkweed is uncommon in many respects and certainly is not weedy in stature. And after taking a close look at a few of this plant’s intricate structural adaptations, I have to say the adjective “magnificent” is not an overstatement.

That bit of purple prose comes after another trip to the Celery Farm to chronicle the milkweed flowering and fruiting cycle. Right now, the Phair’s Pond milkweed patch is in its flowering prime. The globular floral umbels are doing what they are designed to do—attracting pollinators and ensuring the transfer of unique pollen packets from male to female floral parts.

The pollinators are mainly honeybees. That is comforting to see, what with all the stories going around about mysterious colony collapse and empty beehives. The bees buzzing around the milkweed patch seem active and healthy—active enough that successful photography was a challenge for this amateur. I’ll share some of my less than spectacular results in future posts.

What is it about the Common Milkweed that excites me every time I visit the patch? In a word—everything! A few future posts will be devoted to some specifics about the structure, functions, biochemistry and symbiotic relationships that make this plant so special. Meanwhile, spend some time staring at the unique and intelligently designed flower structure—and the downright beauty you can see in the photograph. (Click on it to enlarge it.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cute and Cuddly

In the last post, I wasn’t kind to the snapping turtle for its non-cute and cuddly attributes. So this time, let’s go for the C&C Cottontail Rabbit. (Click on the picture to fully appreciate this guy.)

In my frequent trips to the Celery Farm Natural Area, usually in search of weeds and bugs to photograph, this guy or one of his buddies nearly always greets me somewhere along the meadow or pond trail. Usually, I have the wrong lens on my camera—a macro lens suited for flower and bug photography. But today, I had switched to a big howitzer, because one of the flowers to be photographed was about ten feet into a poison ivy patch.

On my hike back to the car, the “Meadow Supervisor,” as I call him, confronted me on the path and posed without even a nose twitch for a few portraits.

The cottontail is everything the snapper isn’t—furry instead of scaly, land-loving instead of aquatic (except for laying eggs), herbivorous instead of carnivorous (mostly), and cute instead of, well, handsome, in a reptilian sort of way.

The main occupation of cottontails (besides greeting visitors) is grazing on almost any plants they find tasty—all day long. It’s a relaxed sort of existence except for watching out for predators, of which there are many candidates in the Celery Farm—hawks, fox, coyotes (?). The snappers, meanwhile, are cruising the pond, snapping up fish, ducklings and most anything that moves.

A surprising finding, however, is that a stomach content analysis of snapping turtles reveals up to fifty percent plant material, a reminder that before the sad events of Genesis 3, everybody ate plant material exclusively. Predation was not a factor and there was no scavenging because there were no dead things to scavenge. It wasn’t until after the Flood that God permitted people to eat meat (Gen 9:3), probably because the Curse and subsequent degradation of soil and plant nutritional content would have made an exclusively vegetarian diet increasingly insufficient.

How we got from bunnies to Biblical truth may have been confusing—but that’s what we do here (both heading for Biblical truth and trying to confuse :-)

If you don’t understand Genesis 3, you don’t really understand anything.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Crossing Paths with Snappers

Snapping turtles are not cute and cuddly—that goes without saying. The photo proves the point. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.) This one, photographed at a safe? distance (about 3 feet), raised up her hind quarters and snapped her jaws, a sign that she was not pleased at being approached. After all, she was about the business of finding a suitable spot to dig a hole in which to deposit a clutch of eggs. It’s that time of year. In fact, at the Celery Farm Natural Area there were scores of turtles seen along the paths and in nearby yards doing their reproductive duty—laying enough eggs to at least maintain the population status quo, if not to increase it.

This means laying lots of eggs, because there are lots of egg-loving critters around to dig them up for breakfast the morning after they are laid. Raccoons and skunks are particularly partial to Egg McSnapper when in season.

Of course, those of naturalistic mind-set would say that this is all part of nature’s way of maintaining its balance. And we would agree. An overpopulation of snapping turtles devouring ducklings and biting the feet off of adult swimming birds would certainly throw ecosystems out of balance. (We would rather not think too long about what we do to hens—stealing their eggs every morning so they will keep laying more until they wear themselves out and are shipped off for “other purposes”).

Naturally (or super-naturally) we, in this blog, try to think beyond the naturalistic, materialistic worldview and ask the question, “is this really natural?” The answer is, "of course it is—in the post-Genesis 3, fallen, sin-cursed, Romans 8:22 cosmos". And we have to live with that fact until Romans 8:21 is fulfilled. But it was not that way “in the beginning”, before the tragic event recorded in Genesis 3 and its life-and biosphere-changing consequences.

That should be enough scripture to look up and provide much food for thought, over a delicious Egg McMuffin breakfast. Have a good day.