"For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept myself still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant" (Is 42:14)

Day 8: Monarch Butterfly Life Support System

Monarch Butterfly Life Support System


ave you ever seen a timelapse of a monarch butterfly emerging from its cocoon? This is the good side of technological advancement that captures for us such wonders. The transformation from caterpillar to butterfly aka metamorphosis brings to mind both a person who has been intubated and put under life support and a fetus developing inside an animal's womb. Life support refers to a variety of medical procedures that aim to keep a person alive until the body is ready to take over again. I liken to a life support a caterpillar's vital stages from an egg to a chrysalis. The chrysalis is not just a protective covering or sac but it is actually the caterpillar's body that pupates or metamorphs.

Several years ago a fellow community member of mine, Fr Francisco "Kiko" Perez SJ of happy memory, had his own butterfly house within Ateneo de Manila University campus where I lived. Even before the butterfly produces its eggs Fr Kiko has already grown this plant called milkweed, a poisonous plant, which serves as their "milk" when the eggs are hatched. It is a common butterfly found throughout the world, including both of the Americas, the West Indies, the Philippines, Australia, and other regions. Butterflies especially the monarch is of a special and delicate kind because it can only reproduce on the milkweed plant. The plant serves not only as their life support it is also their obstetrician, gynecologist and birthing center all rolled into one. That means without the milkweed there will be no monarch butterfly.

Among all butterflies and moths, the monarch is the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration as birds do. North American monarchs fly south in autumn because they cannot survive the cold winters of northern climates. They travel in large flocks. Dr Frederick Urquhart was a Canadian zoologist who studied the migration of monarchs. One day he put a tag on a thousand monarchs in his place in Toronto Canada in North America. His interesting study showed that every year these monarchs fly southward across the United States to arrive at their destination in Central America. Monarchs use a combination of air currents and thermals to travel long distances. Some fly as far as 3,000 miles or almost 5,000 kilometers in a period of eight months. So much of the monarch’s behavior is a mystery to scientists.

One thing is clear though, during winter they run out of their only source of nutrition for their offsprings—the milkweed plant—which die out during winter. Their young can only thrive sustained by the milky juice of the plant and no other. Milkweed and monarchs are partners for life. The milk even serves like an immunity from predators. Because of the poison present in the milk the caterpillars and the adult butterflies become distasteful to birds and other predators. Some butterflies like the viceroy butterfly are not milkweed eaters but they mimic the color and patterns of the distasteful milkweed butterflies to utilize this strategy for survival. When these monarchs arrive at their destination they need to produce offsprings before they die. But the following generations of monarchs which are the grandchildren of those that traveled earlier will return to where their grandparents migrated from in the North.

How they are able to find their way back home is shrouded in mystery. Many scientists have observed that these creatures seem to follow environmental cues like the position of the sun or an internal compass that guide their way consistently during cloudy periods. It is passed on from one generation to another. How the butterflies “know” when to fly north or south is a secret that is not fully understood yet. 8thWorker.us


  1. I apologize for accidentally deleting the beautiful comment which I was able to read in this post. Thank you none the less! GBU!

  2. I’m speechless!!! I feel like I just witnessed God’s artistry๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™


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