Friday, May 23, 2014

Shields Up, Cloaking Device On

I'm taking an afternoon walk with Shira when I spy this bright organge butterfly. By the time I have my phone unlocked and the camera open, this guy has put his wings together to form almost perfect camouflage.


I waited for a bit, but the butterfly won. I was forced to walk away before he opened up his wings.

Still, in many respects the camo side of this guy is just a impressive as the bright orange side.

It's possible that this guy was a Monarch Butterfly. If so, he had another trick up his sleeve for defense along with invisibility:

male monarch lays its eggs (1) on a sprouted milkweed plant. The eggs hatch in four to five days producing tiny yellow, black and white banded larvae (caterpillars). These caterpillars (2) will feed solely on milkweed and eat enormous quantities because they are growing fast. They will grow to 2,700 times their original size in only two weeks, molting five times in the process. At three weeks old the caterpillar will enter the pupa stage (3) and gradually change into an emerald green case ringed with golden dots called a chrysalis (4). Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar rebuilds into an adult butterfly (5) which, at five weeks old, climbs out of the chrysalis (6) (7) head first. Its bright orange and black wings (8) (9) signal to predators, "Beware!" Why? Monarchs are what they eat! The milkweed's "milk" or white latex is both acidic and somewhat poisonous to many animals. Since a monarch cater-pillar feeds solely on milkweed, it absorbs these substances into its body and stores them throughout its life. Therefore, the monarch tastes awful to many of its predators.

That's right, by ingesting a poisonous plant, they become poisonous themselves. Any their bright color let's then use the Lubber Grasshopper Defense. For such a tiny creature, it sure is clever.

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