For thousands of years people have been charmed by the beauty and elegance of the butterfly. Even more so, cultures have been inspired by its incredible metamorphosis. There are about 20,000 different species of butterfly in the world ranging in size and color. One of the most famous is the monarch butterfly. While most butterflies share many of the same abilities, the monarch stands above the rest. Here are some reasons why.
1. Eggs & Location. As the monarch butterfly roams around, it is looking for a place to lay eggs. To do so, it must find the milkweed plant. This plant is pretty much the only plant the monarch caterpillar will eat (National Geographic). To figure out if it is the right plant, the butterfly will taste it with its feet. It will land on a plant, stomp on it to raise some juices, taste the plant, and determine if it is milkweed or not. Once it finds the milkweed, it will lay eggs on the plant. The obvious danger is for the egg to fall off and die before it hatches. So, the butterfly produces an incredibly unique and super strong glue to keep it fixed to the plant. It’s nature’s superglue.
When the monarch egg finally hatches, it will eat it’s own shell and then the milkweed plant it was laid on. This seems fine, except for the fact that milkweed is poisonous and capable of killing large animals if they eat enough of it. Somehow the caterpillar feasts upon this plant without any problem at all. The poison has no effect. In fact, it will even use this poison to make itself very unappealing to predators. If a bird eats a monarch butterfly, it will not be so quick to eat another.
2. Transformation. Once the caterpillar has grown and gone through a shedding like process a few times, it is ready to go under a leaf and form the chrysalis. Inside, the caterpillar will release enzymes to break down and liquefy much of itself. What are left are a few main parts, like organs, and a soupy substance. This liquid is exactly what it needs to transform and keep from starving. This fluid mess functions like a bunch of little Lego blocks (Young). Even though the body is broken down, certain groups of cells (e.g. muscles) will stick together to be reused. Other cells in this fluid will form into “imaginal discs,” which will soon grow into parts like wings and legs (ibid). All of these little pieces will build back together. After about 10 days and some incredibly complex growth spurts, the butterfly will finally emerge in its exquisitely transformed body.
3. Migration. Like most butterflies, monarchs can’t fly in cold weather. It must get its body temperature up around 85 degrees to fly. The cold winter weather is a death trap, so monarch butterflies must migrate to warmer climates. The problem is, not a single butterfly of its generation has done this before. In fact, by the time the year winter migration happens, several generations will have already lived and died (National Geographic). The monarchs that make the trip are the previous year’s great grandchildren. Amazingly, every year these butterflies easily make the 3,000-mile migration to the exact same location, following the exact same route, and some even to the exact same tree as their great grandparents (ibid).
The monarch butterfly is an amazing insect! Like many creatures, its abilities pose many difficult questions for the supporters of evolution. Why is the butterfly able to go through such a dramatic transformation in just a few days when other animals supposedly must take millions of years to evolve? Why is it that only insects can undergo such a transformation and no other animals, which are supposedly higher up the evolutionary line, are able to do this today? How does the butterfly know exactly where to migrate to, even sometimes down to the same tree as its ancestors? How did it develop the taste receptors on its feet? How and when did it develop immunity to milkweed?
Such an incredible insect can only be the creation of the Almighty God. Without a doubt it was the Lord who made all the insects and creatures (Genesis 1:24-25). All other explanations fall short. Butterflies, especially the monarch, boldly proclaim God as the creator (Psalm 19:1). As Psalm 95:6 says, “Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” The Lord is deserving!
- Browner, Lincoln. “Inside the Chrysalis.” http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/monarch/ChrysalisDevelopmentLPB.html
- “Fun Facts About Butterflies.” http://butterflybreeders.org/public/letslearn/funfacts.html
- Hadley, Debbie. “10 Fascinating Facts About Butterflies.” http://insects.about.com/od/butterfliesmoths/a/10-facts-butterflies.htm
- National Geographic. “Monarch Butterfly.” http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/monarch-butterfly/
- Wikipedia. “Butterfly.”
- Young, Ed. “3-D Scans Reveal Caterpillars Turning Into Butterflies.” http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/05/14/3-d-scans-caterpillars-transforming-butterflies-metamorphosis/