“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.”–Hans Christian Andersen.
When was the last time you came face to face with an actual butterfly?
I’m an avid gardener; and as the seasons stretch from spring into summer then fall, there is nothing more magical than watching the arrival of these glorious creatures in my garden, whether they flit past my porch windows en masse (as they have in past seasons in an endless, mind-blowing parade) or they dart around me in the garden en route to feast on the flowers and flowering shrubs that I planted … just for them. I can’t think of anything better than sharing my garden with these colorful little souls.
If you’re as obsessed with butterflies as I am or if you’ve taken them for granted, I urge you not to miss the rebroadcast of one of my favorite episodes of the PBS NATURE series. Sex, Lies and Butterflies soars again tonight, May 27, 2020, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET. (Check local listings for air times and repeat broadcasts in your region, http://www.pbs.org/nature for online streaming and http://ShopPBS.org for DVD and Blu-Ray availability.)
This fascinating documentary makes the most of sophisticated eye-popping macro-cinematography to time-line the extraordinary 50-million year metamorphosis of one small brown moth into some 20,000 species of butterflies. It was produced and directed by Emmy® Award-winner Ann Johnson Prum and written by Janet Hess, who seem to share an affinity for the tiniest creatures. You can read my FrontRowCenter review of their 2016 film for PBS NATURE, Super Hummingbirds, at https://judithtrojan.com/2016/10/12/
Sex, Lies and Butterflies takes viewers on a similarly remarkable journey as it positions us eyeball-to-eyeball with such species of butterflies as Painted Ladies, Monarchs and Swallowtails and introduces us to those lucky biologists and ecologists in the U.S. and abroad who study the life cycles, migratory patterns and survival techniques of butterflies.
I guarantee that as you watch the extraordinary footage of these beauties as they mate, lay their jewel-like eggs, hatch and dodge predators via a funky array of caterpillar “attire” and break free of their chrysalises as full-fledged butterflies, the only word that will come to mind is “Wow!”
In fact, the film’s “wow factor” never waivers as Ms. Prum and her team explore unique butterfly species and their broad-based habitats; the marvels of their incredible eyes, proboscis, wings and vocalizations; their natural enemies and surprising “frenemies”; the logistics and challenges of their extraordinary migratory journeys and pivotal role as pollinators.
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty,” said Maya Angelou.
This film, serenely narrated by Paul (“Billions”) Giamatti, serves as an evergreen reminder of why we need to be concerned that butterfly populations are dwindling at alarming rates. Sex, Lies and Butterflies is a wake-up call and surefire pandemic pick-me-up. As we tentatively break free from our quarantined cocoons (homes!) and return to the rat race, it’s important not to forget the beauty and fascinating “back stories” that such exquisite creatures continue to afford us in our own backyards.
NATURE: Sex, Lies and Butterflies is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET. It will be rebroadcast on PBS tonight, May 27, 2020, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET. Check local listings for air times and repeat broadcasts in your region, http://www.pbs.org/nature for online streaming and http://ShopPBS.org for DVD and Blu-Ray availability.— Judith Trojan