The Poisonous Butterfly
Those beautiful, carefree butterflies may be more dangerous than you thought - recent research reveals that certain varieties contain a deadly poison that could be detrimental to your health.
The metamorphsis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is one of the most wondrous marvels of the natural world. The intricate beauty, design and colors of a butterfly flittering by is a delight to behold. Did you know, however, that some of those enchanting butterflies are now believed by scientists to be extremely dangerous to your health – poisonous in fact?
The monarch, with its large black and orange-brown wings and the viceroy, which looks almost identical to the monarch, are the two most common butterflies that you are likely to encounter. They are just two of some 15,000 species of butterfly. They go through four phases of development to emerge as the winged beauties that we see in our gardens. During the larva, or caterpillar stage, the monarch caterpillar feeds on the toxic milkweed causing it to become toxic and therefore deadly trouble to any bird that eats it. This poison is called cardenolide and it is a danger to even the human heart.
The viceroy is distinguishable from the monarch by way of a black inner line on its lower wings. Evolutionists long believed that viceroys developed wing designs and colors similar to the monarch to avoid attack by prey who have learned to become weary of the poisonous monarch. They believed that the viceroy, if caught out, would be a tasty treat for birds. However, recent investigations have revealed that the viceroy is just as noxious as its cousin the monarch. The problem here is not that its larvae eat toxic plants, but, rather, that the viceroy appears capable of manufacturing it’s own toxic chemical defense system. This has thrown the accepted facts on the viceroy out the window and underscores just how little we really do know about the natural world around us. In fact, according to a recent book on the monarch butterfly, ‘the more we learn about the monarch, the less we know with confidence.”
Yet, we don’t have to understand everything about the workings of nature to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. A little knowledge, however, can certainly help us to avoid becoming another victim of the beautiful but potentially deadly monarch and viceroy butterflies.