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Friday, October 22, 2004

Can Butterflies Talk?

A researcher in Florida believes that they can and has recorded audible clicks from the blue and white longwing butterflies that appear to be a form of communication.

The discovery was not on purpose, but was an accident. Researcher, Mirian Hay-Roe, an entomologist at UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, was studying a different variety of butterflies, and sharing space with someone who was working with the blue and white longwings. She then noticed that the longwing were chasing and bullying her butterflies, and making sounds at the same time.

Even though this is the first time sounds have been heard coming from the blue and white longwing butterflies, Charles Darwin believed that the Hamadryas butterfly also used sounds to attract mates.

The blue and white longwing butterflies are found in South and Central America where they are usually found by the hundreds at night in the trees.

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A Butterfly's and moth's wings are actually transparent. The iridescent scales, which overlap like shingles on a roof, give the wings the colors that we see. Contrary to popular belief, many butterflies can be held gently by the wings without harming the butterfly. Of course, some are more fragile than others, and are easily damaged if not handled very gently. Most predators have learned that the monarch butterfly makes a poisonous snack. The toxins from the monarch's milkweed diet have given the butterfly this defense. In either the caterpillar or butterfly stage the monarch needs no camouflage because it takes in toxins from the milkweed and is poisonous to predators. Many animals advertise their poisonous nature with bright colors just like the monarch!