Scientists Eating Butterflies

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Scientists Eating Butterflies

Abby McCoy, Secretary

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In 1957, entomologist Doctor Frederick Urquhart was baffled due to how birds ate every other type of butterfly, including the similarly-looking viceroy, but vehemently refused to chow down on the monarch butterfly.

Entomologists began test after test, freezing the butterflies before presenting them to the birds, chopping off their wings, feeding them the wings and the bodies separately. Each time, the birds ate the monarch butterflies, which confused scientists even more. One scientist decided to take matters into his own hands and grabbed a few monarchs to try before he continued with the proper research. Choosing to remain anonymous, he claims that monarch butterflies do not have a bitter taste like others had suspected, but rather taste bland and like dry toast.

Entomologists remain confused how birds in the wild will ignore monarch butterflies but in a controlled environment birds will actively choose to eat monarchs. Many of the butterfly subspecies that mimic the monarch’s looks have failed to be successful, but why is it that birds can tell the difference between the actual monarchs and their copycat sister species? Perhaps this mystery will remain unsolved.