by Taetske | 4:20 pm
(Last Updated On: November 12, 2018)

 

The butterfly, one of the prettiest insects in the world

 

Worldwide it is estimated that 17,500 species of butterflies exist. That really seems like a lot. In the United States, there are around 750 species. That again seems like a lot, but these beautiful insects are disappearing. It all comes down to the fact that we are the cause, how sad. Did you know that the oldest fossil of a butterfly is between 40-50 million years? Amazing when one thinks how tender this small insect is. To have lived so long ago and still be present in our world today.

 

 

The tomb of Nebamun

The butterfly has been a subject in art to many. There is a lovely tomb painting depicting Nebamun hunting in the marshes. Besides animals, you can also see birds and lovely butterflies depicted. Nebamun seems to have been associated with the temple and had to help manage the grain supplies for Egypt. This was an important job giving him a certain status.  These 11  paintings were found in Thebes and date back to 1350 BC. They were bought by the British Museum in the 1820s.

 

Wen Shu, a female painter

Wen Shu who lived from 1594-1634 was the great-great-granddaughter of Wen Zhengming 1470-1559. He was one of the greatest painters, calligraphers, and scholars during the Ming dynasty. Wen Shu must have inherited his artistic abilities as she also was an excellent painter making beautiful works of nature flowers, plants, and butterflies.

 

The poet Walt Whitman

There is a very nice black and white photograph of the American poet Walt Whitman. It was taken in 1877 and you see him sitting holding a butterfly on his finger. He proclaimed it was a real butterfly but actually it was a photographic prop. Anyhow, the butterfly was and is liked by most people in the world.

 

 

2 World famous painters creating butterflies

Vincent van Gogh painted a series of butterflies in 1889-1890. Salvador Dali also used the butterfly as a motive. The old Flemish Masters on their elaborated flower compositions would include butterflies. Throughout art history, the butterfly has been depicted and is the best-loved of all insects. You may also find the butterfly in literature. Here come 2 nice quotes:

“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days-three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.” This quote comes from John Keats, Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne

Then there is this other rather funny quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.

“Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”

As you can see, the butterfly has been known for a very long time and is depicted in art and mentioned in literature. People worldwide are more conscious about the disappearing of this lovely insect. Once again the alarm bell is ringing. A species is in danger.

 

the spraying of the crop with a small airplane

The spraying of the crop with a small airplane

 

Why the Monarch is disappearing

Again a species, in this case, the Monarch butterfly is in grave danger. This beautiful butterfly is on the verge of being exterminated by men. The Monarch butterfly has seen a decline of more than 90% in the last years. There are multiple reasons for this to happen. Its natural habitat is growing smaller as we need land to build cities, more houses, shopping malls, and roads.

This is what humans need and deforestation in Mexico is a major contribution to the Monarch’s plight. Air pollution is not beneficial for this tender insect and neither are the severe weather changes. But the worse culprit is the massive increase in the use of glyphosate, the main active ingredient of Roundup, a herbicide, made by the company Monsanto. Roundup does not only kill plants but also insects like bees. This product is bad for the total environment.

 

dead bee killed with pesticides

Dead Bee killed with Pesticides

 

How the food source of the Monarch is eliminated

This herbicide which is used worldwide is in the foods we eat. Farmers are spraying it on GMO crops like corn and soybeans. But glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide and applying it to crops will kill many other types of plants. The Monarch butterfly eats Milkweed and that plant is the Monarch’s only food source. Milkweed is a beneficial wildflower and there are more than 100 species of Milkweed native to the United States. The female butterflies lay their eggs in this plant and the caterpillars that are to become Monarch butterflies, eat it. They do not like other plants and when there is no Milkweed available the producing cycle collapses. Milkweed is disappearing because of spraying with Roundup and that makes it impossible for this butterfly to survive.

 

Monarch caterpillar sitting on milkweed leaf

Monarch Caterpillar sitting on a Milkweed leaf

 

A very long voyage

The migration of the Monarch butterfly is quite amazing. They travel 4000 to 7000 km to escape the winter. Since 1994 the record keeping of these insects started. When they arrive in Mexico at their overwintering grounds there might be from 10 to 50 million butterflies per hectare. In 1996 there was a peak of 1 billion butterflies but over the years less and less arrived each year. In 2017 there were only around 33 million Monarchs in Mexico. This sharp decline has been observed over the years and is worrisome.

 

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve

The Reserve was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and a World Heritage Site in 2008. This Biosphere was specially created for the Monarch butterfly so it would have a protected environment to spend its winter. This protected area has an extension of 56,000 hectares but only a small part is occupied by the Monarch butterfly as their numbers are in drastic decline. If you are interested to visit this place the best months are January and February. Try and choose a sunny day as then the butterflies will be out and flying about. On dark days they stay together hanging like clusters from a tree branch. On weekends it can get a bit crowded as Mexican people will flock to the park.

 

A visit to El Rosario

There are 5 colonies which are open to visit but one of the most accessible ones is El Rosario. With the entrance fee of 50 pesos, which is approx 3 Euros, you are also given a guide. One climbs up the mountain to a height of 3000 meters. On the top is a place where you can take a rest. In certain times of the year, there might be some snow up there. The butterflies cover an area with some 1500 trees but you cannot come too close to them. There is a rope around the trees at about 30 meters distance. As cameras are so good nowadays and all have zoom included, it will not be a problem to make lovely pictures.

 

monarch butterfly on the blossom of the milkweed

Monarch Butterfly on the blossom of the Milkweed

 

Conclusion

What are we doing to our environment? Butterflies also form part of creation and we should protect it instead of destroying it. The fact that Milkweed is the only food source for the Monarch butterfly is worrying as every year the Milkweed plant is more difficult to find. This plant is also a food source for nectar-seeking bees, flies, seed bugs, longhorn beetles, and leaf beetles. It is very adaptable and can grow in deserts, plains, valleys, wetlands, and open woods.

The name Milkweed comes from the milky latex sap. It can be poisonous, but as the taste is bitter animals normally avoid eating it. The caterpillar of the Monarch butterfly does eat it and is therefore not a good bite to predators, it even shows with its bright colors as a warning of their bitter taste. So plant some Milkweed in your garden to help Monarch butterflies on their journey with an adequate food supply.

 

Source: Wikipedia, The World Digital Library, EWG

Photo Source: Pixabay

 

Perhaps you also like to read my other post on butterflies.

Beautiful Butterflies, Wonderful Mother Nature’s Gift.

Comments

Brian

I love butterflies, especially the monarch butterfly and it saddens me that their numbers have greatly decreased and are continuing to do so. I remember being a kid in the 1980s and I used to see a great amount of them each year, but as time went on, it was always less and less. While I have seen some this year, as recently as about a month or so ago, it just isn’t the same amount as their used to be. I’m glad you talked about how their food sources are being eliminated. Crazy to think that Roundup is responsible for Milkweed disappearing! It’s nice to know though that there is a Monarch Butterfly Reserve and hope that there will more of these kinds of reserves popping up in other places. Thank you for sharing this. 

Nov 12.2018 | 05:52 pm

    Taetske

    Good Morning Brian,

    Thank you for reading my post and leaving a comment. I hope you have downloaded your free PDF?

    Monsanto is an evil company with an old and sinister history. The damage they have done worldwide cannot be described, it is enormous. 

    The Monarch butterfly goes to that particular place in Mexico as there the climate is the right one for them to stay safe during the winter. Actually, there is more than enough space for them, they only occupy a small part. We have to try and provide more food for them during this long trip they make. If people would privately plant Milkweed along the route of the butterflies that would already help some. It would be better to have Roundup banned from using it to spray crops.

    Regards, Taetske

    Nov 13.2018 | 07:28 am

Michelle

Hello Taetske, 

I love butterflies, as a matter of fact, my pen-name is ‘madam butterfly’ in English. It is such a shame that we are not being more aware of the help these beautiful creatures give to our world. They may be small but they, too, play a role in the promulgation of our world.

Your article made in smile in some places and then made me angry in some. I hope more people will become aware and do their ‘small’ part in ‘saving’ the butterfly kingdom, especially the Monarch.

Thanks for sharing.

Michelle

Nov 12.2018 | 05:53 pm

    Taetske

    Good Morning Michelle,

    Yes, I can imagine you were angry reading this news in my post. It is so sad that we humans always need to destroy. There are also many people who do positive things in this world. I often get the impression it is a battle between good and bad. 

    Especially in America there are things happening which worry me. National Parks which are in danger, environmental laws which are pushed aside, drilling off the coast, too many things which will affect the American people and all the people in the world. 

    Thank you for leaving a comment on my website. I hope you have downloaded your free PDF?

    Regards, Taetske

    Nov 13.2018 | 07:29 am

Anusuya

This is an awakening blog for the world. Amazing and intuitive writing that educates us. Awesome topic with a magnificent description of art, literature, history and slow disappearance of this lovely animal! The cause, use of Monsanto’s Roundup as herbicide to protect the crop and destroying the food for butterflies along with bees’ food to deplete the earth essentials should be looked at a higher level of authority.

I enjoyed one of it kind topic today. I hope this message would reach everyone as a wake up call. Thank you for the share

Nov 12.2018 | 06:14 pm

    Taetske

    Good Morning Anusuya,

    Thank you for your visit and leaving a comment. I hope you have downloaded your free PDF.

    Sadly the higher authorities seem to be mainly people with a tremendous greed. Money rules the world and it does not matter if nature is destroyed and people get sick and die. The more I investigate into these things the more I am saddened to see that the human race is far from realizing that one should respect creation and instead of destroying protect it.

    Regards, Taetske

    Nov 13.2018 | 07:29 am

Nicki V

It’s so sad to ready about how the monarch butterfly is becoming more extinct.  I really wish they would outlaw all of these terrible pesticides that are doing EVERYONE harm.  Since organic food is becoming increasingly more popular, you would think that Monstano would see that you don’t need to spray crops to be able to produce viable food products.  It really makes me mad to hear of all of these different insects dying off.

Thanks for a great article and for raising awareness on the declining Monarch population 🙁 

Nov 12.2018 | 09:13 pm

    Taetske

    Good Morning Nicki,

    Thank you for leaving a comment on my website. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?

    I do not think Monsanto cares one bit about butterflies or people. They have been telling us now so many years that Roundup is harmless which is a lie. To go the organic way and not buy from companies which use GMO in their products is all we can do for the moment.

    Regards, Taetske

    Nov 13.2018 | 07:29 am

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