Editors Note: This is the debut article for our new guest author Rose Bowrie. She will be writing periodically about whatever creation related topics interest her. Please join us at In His Image in giving her a warm welcome.
If you are anything like me, you have probably watched these beautiful orange and black winged insects flutter by with your eyes wide, and your mouth open, wondering at their beauty. Perhaps they have made you smile as they fluttered past you, in their search for milkweed.
Anyway, monarch butterflies are one of God’s beautiful creations, and they are pretty fascinating. Their life cycle starts when a female monarch lays her eggs on a milkweed plant. The eggs hatch into caterpillars, and they begin to eat the leaves of the milkweed plant. This actually makes the caterpillars slightly toxic to the birds and other predators who try to eat them. The monarch caterpillars remain in this stage of their life for ten to fourteen days. During this time, the caterpillar has eaten quite a bit of milkweed leaves. This is the point where the caterpillar then forms a chrysalis, or cocoon, and begins to transform into the monarch butterfly. The monarch caterpillar is in the chrysalis for ten to fourteen days. During that time, the caterpillar goes through an amazing transformation into the butterfly called metamorphosis. It does retain a lot of its original organs, like the tracheal tubes and its gut, though the gut does shrink. The caterpillar does not just turn into goo when it gets to the chrysalis stage. Its DNA is actually coded so that the caterpillar, when it is ready to go into the chrysalis, is basically washed in hormones that make it change. Whole parts of the caterpillar are changed so that when the butterfly is done, the chrysalis opens, and the butterfly makes its beautiful appearance.
The first part of the butterfly that humans notice anyway, are the wings. These wings are beautifully designed by God. The wings are made of membrane, which is intersected with veins. The veins on the monarch butterfly are black. The orange part of the wings are actually scales that cover the outside of the membrane. The scales overlap each other, and each scale only has one color. There are thousands of scales on the wings of the monarch butterfly. The butterfly will also not die if you touch the wings.
As an adult, the monarch butterfly will spend its day drinking the nectar of the flowers of the milkweed plant, and pollinating the milkweeds while it is drinking the nectar. The life of the adult monarch is two to six weeks long. The monarch will then mate, lay its eggs on a milkweed plant and then die. The only time this cycle is apparently interrupted is when they migrate.
The monarch butterfly, once the milkweed begins to die off in the northern climates, actually migrates down south, actually south of Mexico City, Mexico. There they stay for the whole winter, until the milkweed in the north is growing again. Then the monarchs start their journey north again. Funny though, the butterflies that wintered in Mexico are not the ones that make it to the north country. Their offspring do. Sometimes it takes a few generations of monarchs for the butterflies to make it as far north as Minnesota. The migration is good for business as well, as numerous states have businesses selling milkweed seeds so locals can attract Monarchs.
How they do this is something of a mystery. Monarchs weigh next to nothing and have no known ability to store energy. How they are able to fly 3000 plus miles baffles scientists. Their navigational system is incredibly complex, consisting of sun sensors, magnetic field sensors, and chemoreceptors. The integrated complexity of these systems allows a monarch to potentially land on the same tree its ancestors left several generations before. This incredible precision defies expectations.
These facts cause a problem for evolutionists. Monarch butterflies have a brain the size of a pinhead. How do they store all this navigational information? How do the offspring of the wintered monarchs know where to go? How did the parent butterflies tell them? Did the parent butterflies tell them? Obviously not since the parents do not care for the young. How then do the butterflies know when it is time to migrate, and how do they know to go south of Mexico City? Or north to Minnesota? Evolution has no explanation for this migration. In fact, monarch butterflies are such a problem for evolutionists, one creation speaker regularly uses them to demonstrate just how badly they demolish evolution.
The answers to the above questions, for a creationist are fairly simple. God created this monarch butterfly to travel and to migrate. He created the butterflies, and the milkweeds that they eat. God actually created the milkweeds first on day three, and the monarch butterflies were created on day six. Created by God, only three days apart. Now that is a caring God, who created the food source first, then created the insect who was going to eat the plant. He cared about the butterflies enough to make sure they had food when they were created. And He made them beautiful so mankind would watch them, and wonder.
Dr. Thomas Kindell on the Monarch Butterfly
This paper from two weeks ago is fairly recent and so maybe you haven’t had a chance to read it but it is important and is a must read for anyone who is writing a critique about monarch and evolutionary biology. https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0960982218302537?token=1D3733682BF6B259A810715C8B6A8D5FBC75725701F1AD4B8AFD0B42239ECDB004FD8FA7377F240B7B288DA8D4A3246A This should be open access but I can send you a copy if not. There is a tremendous amount known about monarch migration especially in the past 5 years but this paper sums up much of that work in one place. The genetic basis, how they navigate and how mutations can change their migratory pathways are all known or very close to being known as we can change their genome and see how it effects them. Brain size is no problem and even if it is hard to imagine, the fact they can do it means their brain is capable. I don’t think we have a mystical view that migration is not controlled by some physical mechanism. God doesn’t just tell them were to go without the secondary means of biology to bring about His purposes. That in no way takes away from how awesome monarchs are and the fact that God is the creator but it not as if they are a mystery that God gave us no tools to explore.
Migration raises its own challenges to young-earth biology. If God simply programmed migration routes into monarchs, why do so? In the original creation why would migration be necessary? Why hibernate when the climate was excellent for monarchs. Why would they need to eat toxic plans if birds could not eat them? Why would viceroys look just like monarchs if mimicry were used to avoid predation? But mostly how did monarch know about migratory pathways that would only exist in the post-flood world 2000 years later? Did God program these pathways into their DNA in creation or did he “add” this information later?
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First of all thank you for the paper, I will definitely read it and update this article as I deem necessary. This article was written before the paper was published and hence does not include that information. 🙂 So I’ll definitely look it over and include such information as is applicable.
Regarding your migration comment, this actually is a very valid point. I actually might write a full article to address those points as there really isn’t full space in the comment section to do it justice. I’ll give you a brief overview of my thoughts. We don’t know what monarchs ate prior to the fall, or even if such a species existed. It is possible they have speciated out since the fall or even the flood. Thus they may not have been obligate milkweed feeders prior to the fall or even the flood. And in no way would it surprise me if this adaption took place after the fall. To say that mimicry is an issue with regard to the monarch and the viceroy seems to understate God’s ability to think ahead. There is no doubt He knew man would sin and what that would entail, so there is no reason He could not design mimics in advance for the post fall world.
Post-flood migratory pathways have a couple of interesting problems in play. You’ve raised a reasonable point. Could God have added this information into the genome? Potentially yes, but I suspect the answer is no. How then do they know where to go? I make no claims to being an expert. However, while the post flood world was vastly different than the pre-flood world, it is conceviable that these migratory creatures went to the same places that they had always gone to before the flood. If they were unable to get there, they either stopped at the nearest point, creating a new migration track, or went extinct, potentially accounting for the extinction of many creatures like South American Ungulates, Woolly Mammoths and so on. That’s not a final idea just my intial thoughts. I’ll probably put an article together in the future and develop those thoughts more.
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