Beautiful and Brainy
Beauty with purpose
The sight of gorgeous butterfly wings often thrills young and old alike. But those wings apparently are not only a beautiful means of butterfly transportation. They also act as a sophisticated system of temperature control to keep the cold-blooded insect warm enough to function. In fact, says “Natural History” magazine, “virtually all butterfly species, regardless of size and color, require thoracic [middle body] temperatures of 81° F [27° C] or higher to initiate controlled flight.”
A researcher found that the average thoracic temperature of 50 butterfly species during normal activity was 95° F (35° C), with various species ranging from 82° F to 105° F (28° to 41° C). Hence, the cold-blooded butterfly keeps its body temperature in an operating range similar to warm-blooded mammals and birds (90°-104° F, 32°-40° C) by means of its wings.
Depending on species and circumstances, the wings may spread out flat to absorb maximum solar radiation, extend vertically or at an angle, or even act as a shield for the thorax to maintain the necessary temperature—quite an accomplishment for a lowly insect!
Incredible bee brain
The incredible wisdom found in a tiny bee’s brain continues to dumbfound scientists. “Natural History” magazine describes an experiment that gives “perhaps the eeriest example that argues against bees being nothing more than elegant pieces of clockwork.” A dish of sugar solution is placed near the hive and moved every few minutes in increasingly large jumps, until it may be transported 100 feet (30 m) or more each time. According to the article, researchers have all noted that “a time comes during training when the bees will begin to ‘catch on,’ to anticipate where the food will be next, fly that distance, and wait.”
Marvels the writer: “I can imagine nothing about [gathering nectar from] flowers that could provide a reason for evolving such a behavioral program. Either the bees are very smart or they have been programmed with such exquisite finesse as to leave us in doubt about the source of their abilities. . . . if we concede that even the programming of a one-milligram honeybee brain is too intricate to be distinguished easily from some sort of insect ‘free will,’ where does this leave us with regard to analyzing the sources of our own incredibly complex species-specific human behavior?” It leaves appreciative ones acknowledging the “Programmer” who is the Source of all these incredible creations.