There are four stages in a butterfly’s life-cycle: egg, caterpillar (larva), chrysalis (pupa), butterfly.
Adult monarch butterflies live from one to eight months depending on the season. The monarch caterpillar lives for less than a month.
Toward the end of life females lay 500 slightly oblong period-sized eggs glued to milkweed leaves, one per leaf. Eggs stick to the leaves through wind and rain.
After 3-6 days, caterpillars hatch. Monarch caterpillars are striped in yellow, black, and white from end to end. Over 20 days caterpillars eat 30 milkweed leaves, grow, and molt five times.
Instead of “Eat like a horse” we should say “Eat like a caterpillar.” From hatching out of the egg to forming a chrysalis, caterpillars increase their mass by a factor of at least 2,000!
Poison from the milkweed makes caterpillar and butterfly indigestible to predators. Milkweed is so bitter that it gives the caterpillar and butterfly a dreadful taste. Predators quickly learn to leave them off the menu. After eating monarchs, blue jays have been seen throwing up.
Milkweed has insect defenses including heart toxins and sticky sap that gums up insect mouths. But monarch caterpillars are immune to the toxins. They circumvent the sticky sap by cutting the sap vein near the stem before eating the leaf from the tip.
Read the prequels in this series on Monarch Butterflies and their significance for the creation/evolution controversy:
1. Insect GPS
2. Monarch Butterflies
3. Caterpillar or Butterfly—Which Was First?
Read the sequel:
5. Morphing Monarchs
Soli Deo Gloria.
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Monday January 11, 2010 A.D.
And Yahweh made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and Yahweh saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:25)