Butterflies And Moths
from Things To See In Springtime
Do you remember the dear old fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast? How Beauty had to marry the Beast to save her father's life? But as soon as she had bravely agreed to sacrifice herself—as soon as she gave the fateful "Yes" the Beast stood up on his hind legs, his horns, hoofs and hide rolled off, and he was turned back into his true shape, a splendid young Prince whom she could not help loving; and they lived happy ever after.
Do you know that just such transformations and happy weddings are going on about us all the time? The Beast is an ugly Caterpillar, the Princess Beauty is the Butterfly or the Moth. And when the Beast is changed into the Prince Charming and meets with Princess Beauty, they are just as madly happy as they tell it in the fairy books. I know it, for I have seen the transformation, and I have seen the pair go off on their wedding flight.
Men of science have been trying to explain these strange transformations, and to discover why the Prince and Princess do not need to eat or drink, once they have won their highest form, their life of wings and joy. But they have not got much farther than giving names to the things we have long loved and seen as children, dividing the winged wonders into two big families called Butterflies and Moths.
Do you know the difference between a Butterfly and a Moth?
Taken together they make a large group that are called Scale-wings, because they alone among insects, have scales or tiny feathers like dust on the wings. Butterflies are Scale-wings that fly by day, and have club-shaped feelers; they mostly fold one wing against the other when they alight, and in the chrysalis, or bundle-baby stage, they are naked and look like an African ear-drop.
Moths are Scale-wings that fly by night, and have switch or feather-shaped feelers; they keep their wings spread open when they alight, and in the bundle-baby stage, they are wrapped in a cocoon. There are some that do not keep to these rules, but they are rare, and the shape of the feelers will tell whether it is a Moth or a Butterfly.
All of these Scale-wings are hatched from eggs, and come first, as a worm, grub, or caterpillar; next as a chrysalis pupa or bundle-baby; last as the winged creature. That is, first a Beast and last a Beauty. Each of them must at one time be the ugly one, before the great change comes. But I must tell you a truth that the Fairy Books left out, and which maybe you have guessed—Princess Beauty too was at one time forced to live and look like a Beast, till she had fought her own fight, had worked out her own high destiny, and won her way to wings.
Next: The Mourning-cloak Butterfly Or The Camberwell Beauty