Wednesday, August 8, 2018

August 8, 2018

A lonely Monarch butterfly!

You can see butterflies everywhere here. Today I ‘captured’ one Monarch butterfly in my camera. These insects  became 'famous ‘to us and made 'headlines’ in newspapers sometime , more than 25y ago as Bt-plant technology was about to be released for mankind, for the first time in USA in early 1990s as Bt-cotton technology. The issue was that Bt-cotton plants produces during its growth a "toxic protein" which is toxic to "lepidopteran insets". Lepidopteran insects mean insects that belong to this order by scientific classification and produce "crawling larvae" during their life cycle, and such larvae feed on soft plant materials.

Lepidopteran insects include all butterflies and moths. It is the moths which turn out to be the real pest-insects for us! Scientists have found about 180,000 species of the Lepidoptera insects   spread in 126 families. These insects constitute about 10 % of the total described species of living organisms of the world and are considered as significant life-forms in nature.

These insects go through four stages of their life cycle such as ‘eggs’ in the first stage followed by ‘larvae’ which are seen as caterpillars in the second stage, further followed by forming a ‘pupa’ in the third stage and finally emerging as the nice little ‘butterflies’, the adults! There are many such insects which in full-grown form such as in case of Monarch butterflies, are extremely beneficial to us as useful natural pollinators.

But several others, especially the moths are 'pests' because these insects in their larval stage   enter in to our cultivated produce in the field by making holes in various kinds of agricultural products like gourds, peas, egg-fruit (brinjal also scientifically known as Solanum melongena), tomato, maize, cotton bolls etc. and start eating these from within as these are herbivorous eaters!. These insects thus render severe losses to us.

Genes coding for Bt-proteins were inserted into Bt-plants by ingenuous methods. Once growing, these Bt- plants also produce Bt-proteins in their body parts and body fluids. Such plants when eaten by lepidopteran pests would die in a few days because the Bt- proteins are there in the plant-juice which are toxic to lepidopteran pests! These Bt-proteins are not toxic to us, the human or to any mammals!

 People thought that these Monarch butterfly insects which are important pollinators would be wiped out if Bt-plants were introduced in agriculture. Fortunately, this did not happen as Monarch butterfly larvae do not feed on our vegetables!  Monarch butterflies are around here in our garden and everywhere in their habitats.

I photographed one Monarch butterfly today while it was busy making a meal on nectar! They feed on nectar. Have a look at my FACEBOOK page.