Insects can be beautiful. Today we want to consider a family of insects with about 180,000 described species. They include many of the most beautiful insects on Earth. They are in the Lepidoptera order, and we call them butterflies and moths.
Before they become butterflies and moths, these insects go through a larval stage as caterpillars.
When the caterpillar has eaten its fill of nutrients from its favorite plant, it goes into a pupal stage and through a complete metamorphosis to become a butterfly or a moth. It is one of the most amazing transformations in nature.
The English word “metamorphosis” is from a Greek word meaning “transformation.” So the caterpillar goes through a dramatic change in form and lifestyle. That word is used in Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2 to describe the “transfiguration” of Jesus Christ on the mountain where He met with Moses and Elijah. Paul used the word in Romans 12:2, where he describes the “renewing of your mind” to live a beautiful life according to the will of God.
There is much more to say about beautiful insects, but we will conclude our review of these fascinating creatures tomorrow.
The natural world is full of examples of two species living together in a way that each benefits the other. This mutualistic relationship is known as symbiosis. In some cases, the species are totally dependent on the relationship for their survival. In many plant/animal relationships, the animal depends on a plant for food, and the plant depends on the animal for pollination or the spreading of seeds. We see evidence for design in symbiosis.
One of the most interesting symbiotic relationships is between ants and butterflies. Scientists refer to the caterpillar in this relationship as being myrmecophilous, which means “ant-loving.” Dr. Philip Devries has written several articles in scientific journals about the caterpillars of certain butterfly species and their symbiosis with ants. The caterpillars feed on the nectar of croton trees, but they have a mortal enemy in the form of wasps. The wasp will find a caterpillar, kill it by stinging and then eat it. If ants are present, they will drive off the wasp and protect the caterpillar. Devries has covered some croton trees with ants, and they will have many caterpillars, but trees without ants will have very few caterpillars.
So the ants benefit the caterpillars, but what do the ants gain from this relationship? The caterpillars have organs on their posterior which extrude a clear liquid containing amino acids but virtually no sugar. The croton tree has a secretion that is 33% sugar but has very little nutritional value. The ants get vital nutrition from the caterpillar even though what they get is not sweet.
The caterpillar has other ways of attracting ants, including an organ on its back that secretes an ant pheromone that chemically attracts them. The caterpillar also has an organ that attracts ants by sending sound vibrations through the wood of the tree. Because of this feature, Dr. Devries coined the term “singing caterpillars.”
One of the great challenges to evolutionists is explaining how such a complex system of symbiosis happened by chance mutations. The more we study such relationships, the more different systems of design we see in the natural world. The more relationships we see, the more difficult it is not to recognize evidence for design in symbiosis. It speaks to us about God’s wisdom and design that allows the biological world to exist.