Butterfly is one of the most fascinating creatures on earth. They are born as the mostly-hated caterpillars and change to one of the most beautiful creatures, they float silently yet proudly, and they come in various colors that we all love.
I mean, what kind of transformation is so drastic? Most of us hate them when they are caterpillars, but then even kids and elderly love them when they are transformed into butterfly with amazing wings. Does it meant that the wings change everything?
Are we human are interested in butterflies for solely their wings? Well, that might be true. But impressing us is actually none of their business, because their wings have various purposes and none of it is to impress us.
Here in this article, we are going to talk about the beauty of butterfly wings, the secret behind it.
Human And Butterfly
Human only understand the real use of butterfly wings just recently, but our admiration toward the animals has been long before logic conquered the world. Butterflies were seen as spiritual symbols in many ancient beliefs.
Dated back to ancient Egypt, ancient Aztec, and ancient Greece, butterflies were considered as spiritual creatures. Butterflies were seen as creatures coming from the afterlife or the soul of deceased ancestors who visited their descendants on earth.
Stories told that men with high social standing would carry butterfly-attracting bouquet of flowers to show their social status. While flowers were planted around houses and palaces to attract the sacred creature.
In other mythologies, butterflies are said to be the symbol of godsend. People in South America believed that dreams featuring the creature was a sign of good omen. While people in Ireland believe that the presence of butterfly means good luck.
Albeit the beautiful features in the mythologies, but butterfly don’t actually show their beauty to attract us. Instead, they mostly use it for self-defense, and what’s interesting is that not many creatures are using their beauty for self-defense. It might be a rare feature that only butterfly owns.
Many species of butterflies developed natural colors in their wings so that they can blend very well with their surroundings. This is an ability that we should not underestimate, because their ability to hide themselves is very good.
Some butterflies can mimic leaves in any color, either it is green or brown, up until the very shape of the leaves. By doing it, it can hide itself while roaming around dangerous area while looking for nectars from blooming flowers.
But how about the beautiful butterflies with vivid colors? Do you think they cannot deceive the predators? They can, but they just use different method. Many butterflies have different color in their front wing and their back wing.
Some butterflies can normally blend with their surroundings without closing their wings, but those with vivid coloring on their wings can also do it by closing their wings. This is the reason why butterflies don’t need to sacrifice their beauty for security.
If you have a flower garden, just look around carefully. You might find some camouflaging butterflies with beautiful vivid coloring enjoying your gift to them. Cannot find one? Wait for them to open their wings then.
Butterflies don’t really have to sacrifice beauty for security. While some are able to hide their gorgeousness by closing their wings, some others don’t really need to do anything and enjoy the morning carefreely.
Those are the butterflies with special features, like being poisonous or having horrible taste to the predators. The monarch butterflies, for example, are not preferred by predators because they both taste bitter and toxic to birds.
The reason is because the caterpillars of monarch butterflies eat milkweed tree leaves. The leaves are poisonous and bitter for birds, and the features descent to when the caterpillars are metamorphosing into their final form.
Most species don’t have both features at the same time. Most of them are only either horrible in taste or poisonous to predators, and they have special signaling patterns and colors to inform the predators about the reasons they should not be eaten.
However, mostly those special features don’t apply to human since we are not their natural predator. But some beautiful butterflies that are found in Guyana or Central African Republic region develop small hairs that can cause rash when in contact with our skin.
Deceptive Butterfly Wings
Some are able to blend very well with the surroundings, and some are just not preferable for predators to eat. But some are even more tricky to predators because they basically have no ability to defend themselves but by being themselves.
How? They just imitate other butterflies’ beauty. Do you think that this is not an A-class self-defense? Well, you are wrong. In fact, most predators will just stay away from them just by looking. Take for example viceroy butterfly.
Viceroy butterfly is just usual butterfly, full of nutrients and taste just fine for predators. However, most predators will just avoid eating one because they have the same patterns and coloring as monarch butterflies that taste horrible and toxic.
Heliconius numata, another species of mimicking butterfly, take this ability one step further by learning the most effective patterns to ward off predators. The information the passed down to their offspring through genes, and the process would repeat and continue itself.
It means when the butterflies find other species of butterfly with higher success rate in deception, they will learn, copy, and then pass down the specific colorings to their offspring. “Since genes get shuffled in each generation, the different wing patterns should quickly merge together when parents with different wing patterns mate,” Nicholas Wade of the New York Times described.
Beauty is not always painful, and butterflies can prove it with their remarkable abilities. Nature is wonderful because it can keep providing us infinite beauty of butterflies, and the point is they are not the only creature with similar ability.
Butterflies have proven themselves. The question is, can we as human keep the beauty of nature while saving it from dangers?