We paused on our evening walk by a stand of sturdy broad-leafed plants, with their rounded flower heads bursting demurely into dusty pink. It’s a habit formed in kindergarten for both of us, this annual foray into a milkweed patch. After years of monarch caterpillar awareness, we “knew” that it was just that time of summer that there should be some caterpillars in that milkweed, somewhere. And we needed to say hello, show them to our girls, maybe remind them that there’s a nice little flower garden full of butterfly-friendly flowers in front of our house that they’re welcome to visit when they’re grown up.
But where were they?It was a delightful little game of hide-and-seek, peering under leaves, along stems—and it was a credit to surprisingly clever camouflage that we had almost given up when we finally spotted one. But then it was like our eyes adjusted and we suddenly saw them everywhere! Some tiny, some large, dressed in yellow, black and white stripes, far too busy eating to notice they’d been discovered by friendly nature enthusiasts. Did you know that a Monarch caterpillar is capable of eating an entire milkweed leaf in less than five minutes? Pretty amazing mouth-work for such a tiny creature!A few weeks later, walking past the same stand of milkweed, I witnessed a delicate orange and black butterfly flitting from flower to flower, graciously sipping nectar, and I found myself marveling anew at the beauty of God’s design for sustainability in creation.
The plant gives of itself so the caterpillar may eat. The caterpillar, nurtured exclusively by milkweed, becomes a butterfly. The butterfly, fresh out of its gold-flecked chrysalis pauses to pollinate the flowers of its benefactor, therefore ensuring that it will bear seed to produce…
for more caterpillars,
for more butterflies,
for more seed next year.
And while we’re marveling over Monarch butterflies, let’s not forget how those gorgeously designed wings covered in tiny delicate scales will carry this creature 2,500 miles to Mexico come fall, to spend a warm winter on the exact same few trees its ancestors have spent winters on for ages before, and then all the way back again in the spring to lay the eggs that will become that next generation of caterpillars—because there isn’t any milkweed in Mexico!
There’s so much to marvel at in just this one amazing life cycle in nature! Truly:
“…since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)