The Butterfly Effect

Grown-Up Caterpillars Fly Friendly in the Skies

by Vindia Robinson, age 11

Although the Monarch butterfly is the most well known, there are over 15,000 species of butterflies and moths.

When we first see butterflies they may appear ordinary. But if we look closer, butterflies have many unique features unseen from a distance. For example, they have intricate flat and overlaping scales on their wings that go unexamined unless one cares to look. In their larval form, when they are leaf-eating caterpillars, they have jaws to bite their food, but mature butterflies have a tube-like structure they use to suck up their food. Both caterpillars and adult forms of butterflies have a fur-like texture to their bodies. This furry texture may be hard to see from a distance.

Butterflies grow to adults through the process of complete metamorphosis. During complete metamorphosis, the insect’s body is completely rearranged in a stage called a pupa. For buterflies, the pupa is called the chrysalis. Grubs, caterpillars and maggots go through this process to become butterflies, moths and other insects. Butterflies change quite rapidly when they go through metamorphosis, up to three times a day. After they molt, butterflies have ornate wings. Other insects such as earwigs, don’t change in such an extreme manner. They go through a process called incomplete metamorphosis. Which has several stages of minor changes.

These are beautiful insects that have marvelous features. Seeing all their different designs, shapes and patterns, you may think you know all about a butterfly, but it is a rare delight see one under a microscope!

[Source: The Kingfisher Illustrated Anime Encyclopedia]