The Birth of the Butterflies
First published online on 2004 December 22.
Canville Communications: Article
The butterflies get all their living from the flowers. You often
think they are resting, but they are really getting their food,
too,sipping honey from thousands of blossoms.
But they did not always do this. Once they could not fly at all,
and wore very dark coats, and crawled on the ground.
After a while their coats burst open, all down the back, and they
came out in dresses of quaker gray. Then these poor, creeping
things went to work and spun little silken cords, strong enough
to hold them, and swung off from the under part of some leaf into
the air; there they swung for more than a week, rocked to and
fro by the wind, just as if they were going to sleep. Then a sudden
crack in the light gray coat aroused them, and they began to get
their sleepy eyes open, and look about. Such beautiful golden
wings as they saw, all bordered with black and yellow, and covered
all over with the tiniest feathers, only you could not see them
with your naked eye.
In a very short time the sun and the gentle winds dried up these
beautiful wings and taught them how to use them. Off they went,
over the tallest trees, to join the rest of the family, who had
been transformed just as wonderfully as they were!
How could they believe their senses when they found that all this
beauty really belonged to them? The transformation from a worm-like
creature into the splendor of a butterfly is one of natures greatest
People sometimes confuse butterflies and moths, but they are two
different types of insects. Butterflies are usually lighter in
the body than Moths, from which insects they are easily distinguished
by the shape of the antennæ, which in the Butterflies are slender
and terminate in a small knob, but in the Moths terminate in a
point, and are often beautifully fringed.
The Black Swallowtail Butterfly flies with exceeding rapidity,
nearly in a straight line, and is very difficult to capture. The
color of the wings is black, variegated most beautifully with
yellow markings, and near the extremity of each hinder wing is
a circular red spot, surmounted by a crescent of blue, and the
whole surrounded by a black ring. Its young are green with black
stripes spotted with yellow dots. When the caterpillar is disturbed,
a pair of soft antennæ are released, producing an odor to discourage
predators. The young feed on parsley and similar plants.
The Red Admiral is one of the most gorgeous of Butterflies. The
color of the wings is a deep black, relieved by a broad band of
scarlet across each, and a series of semicircular blue marks edge
each wing. It is usually found in woods and lanes, where there
are nettles, as the larva feeds upon that plant. It appears about
the middle of August.
Its orange color and distinctive white-spotted black edging make
the Monarch Butterfly one of the most recognized butterflies.
Its white, yellow and black striped young feed on milkweed, which
contains a poison that is stored in the caterpillars body. As
an adult, the butterfly retains that poison, making it undesirable
for predators. Birds often learn to avoid the distinctive butterfly.
Each year, millions of Monarch Butterflies migrate from North
America to Central Mexico.
The Viceroy Butterfly looks very similar to the Monarch Butterfly;
the most noticeable difference being a horizontal black band on
the bottom wing which the Monarch lacks. It was once believed
the Viceroy Butterfly mimicked the colors of the Monarch Butterfly
to avoid being eaten by predators, but more recent studies question
Butterflies are popular summer insects, adored by adults and children
alike. You can attract more butterflies to your yard by planting
the types of plants the young feed on, as well as flowering plants,
such as the increasingly popular Butterfly Bush, to lure the
Spend a sunny summer afternoon in a comfortable, shady location,
and see how many butterflies you can identify in your own backyard
or local park.
This story contains the unaltered and unabridged text of and illustration
from Birth of the Butterflies from Mother Bedtime Stories, published in 1909 by Henry Altemus Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
with additional modified text and illustration from Woods Illustrated Natural History by Reverend J. G. Wood published in 1897 by Henry Altemus Company;
with additional new text by Dan C. Rinnert. Copyright 2004 by
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