The zebra longwing is the official state butterfly of Florida. There’s me at lunchtime today, trying to get my point-and-shoot camera to focus on the 3mm (1/10″) long newly hatched zebra longwing caterpillars on the tendril of a passionflower, fondly imagining I’m momentarily escaping from the breakdown of civic life unfolding on the Twitter feed on my MacBook Air inside. Sadly, no. In fact, the 1996 designation of the Heliconius charithonia as the state butterfly is one of the more benign acts of the Florida state legislature, and in general I’m in favor of government intervention in support of the public good. Natural beauty and political action are not separate things, then. We have a state shell, a state tree, a state saltwater mammal. (I’m going to start lobbying for my beloved manatee to replace the dolphin on that one.) We have state universities and state parks. Let’s have a state healthcare system, a state living wage, a state of justice.
I almost got those tiny caterpillars in focus, didn’t I?