Published by: Digital Schools
The Mysterious Undertakings of The Miraculous - The Hidden Lives of Mini-beasts & Butterflies, Part 2
As I said in last week’s discovery, ‘nothing in nature is ever straightforward, and there are things that a never quite what we thought they ought to be’. In the miraculous undertakings of our little beasties and winged friends, things are more than mysterious and are becoming quite obscene.
Unfortunately, it is one of those days where you might learn something that can never be unlearned. So be warned, if you want to maintain forever a perfect render of the butterfly and its unstained reputation – I encourage you not to read on.
Or, if you are curious like me to uncover some eye-popping news – continue.
Written and Produced by Emily Rack, @horatiosjar.
Butterflies go, where Milkweed grows.
Most of us think butterflies live off flower pollen and nectar and are perfect little beings of whimsy and myrrh – but that is simply untrue.
In the Jungle of Sulawesi, an island in the Indonesian archipelago, a gruesome discovery was made that has forever changed our point of view. 2019, two scientists from Sydney, Australia, were on a getaway, happy snapping the fauna and flora of the jungles in Sulawesi, when they happened upon a butterfly frenzy like none they had seen before.
Milkweed butterflies, named because of the caterpillar’s appetite for the milkweed plant, were in a feeding bonanza that changed the annals of evolutionary biology. For the first time in scientific history, butterflies were documented eating live caterpillars from their own family. These were cannibalistic butterflies.
Just imagining the scenario has my face scrunched up, my lips pressed tight, and my stomach rising into my throat. I will save you the gory details I learned from my research to bring you this startling news.
You can follow the links if you are keen to know the grittier version of what went on in the Jungle that day.
‘This is the first time scientists have documented grisly behaviour.’
‘Over three days, the scientists counted seven species of milkweed butterflies that scraped and sipped living and dead caterpillars (it is unknown if the dead caterpillars were drained to death or died of their wounds). One possible explanation for why the butterflies find caterpillars so delicious is because milkweed alkaloids accumulate in the caterpillars’ bodies from the leaves they eat, making their internal “juices” more potent, alkaloid-rich brew — and thereby more attractive to thirsty males the scientist suggested’.
It Doesn't Make Sense?
And why do they do it? Apparently, as a way to smell attractive to the opposite sex and ward off predation. Oddly they eat their own larvae to attract a mate to produce more babies, so why eat the ones they already have? Have they gone mad?
STOP Eating Each Other!
Butterflies Fall From Grace.
So far, these butterflies appear to be the only ones cannibalising their kind, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t other eyebrow-raising behaviour in their community. You think cannibalism is terrible; some butterflies eat their poo. And it gets worse.
Yup that is correct; butterflies are certainly not the poster child for purity anymore.
Not only are there butterflies eating their poo, but they are also eating others. Butterflies also indulge in rotting fruit juices and dead insects, drink blood from various sources, slurp sweat and tears, Eek.
Eye-opening, I know.
Next time a butterfly lands on my arm, I will be sure to wash it; after all, I have no idea where it has been. For all I know, it could have been sipping stale old cider out of a bottle in the trash, or worse…