We can find some of the most incredible demonstrations of design in the insect world. Survival in places where very cold winters exist presents a challenge for Insects. Some can bury deep underground, but that is not always practical. Another method of avoiding being wiped out by freezing temperatures is migrating to warmer areas for the winter.
The painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) is one of the most common butterfly species in the world. Researchers knew that painted ladies in Europe fly over 9,000 miles (15,000 km) across the Sahara desert to winter in Africa. But, until recently, they didn’t know precisely where these butterflies go. Now scientists have learned that they live and breed in the savannahs and highlands of central Africa.
Painted lady butterflies from Europe spend their time in semiarid savannas from September to November. When those areas become too dry, they head further south to the savannas and highlands across central Africa for December to February. They avoid tropical rainforests because they are too humid for these insects. Like monarch butterflies, they go through multiple generations before the adults journey back to Europe in the spring.
The researchers who studied this incredible migration have learned where the painted lady butterflies go. However, questions remain unanswered. For example, who told these butterflies to make this long journey, and how do succeeding generations know to make the same trip? Most of us in North America are familiar with monarch butterflies and their impressive migration to Mexico. Still, the migration of painted lady butterflies is the longest journey of any butterfly.
God’s design for the survival of all creatures speaks of His wisdom and planning. When we see the design in the insect world, we appreciate the wisdom and power of God, who has entrusted us with protecting all of His creation.
— John N. Clayton © 2023
References: “The last leg of the longest butterfly migration has now been identified” in Science News for May 6/20, 2023, and a research report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.