Butterfly, Nature’s Beauty
By Obiabin Onukwugha and Ngozi Eyeh
Butterflies are fascinating insects known for their vibrant colors and delicate, intricate patterns on their wings.
Unlike other insects, Butterflies undergo a complete metamorphosis, transitioning through four stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult butterfly.
Belonging to the superfamily Papilionoidea, butterflies, along with the moths and the skippers, make up the insect order, Lepidoptera.
Butterfly wings are covered in tiny scales, which give them their unique colors and patterns. These scales are made of chitin, the same material that forms the exoskeleton of insects.
Called “Nnekwuo” or “Ufio” in Igbo, butterflies exhibit mimicry, imitating the appearance of other species to protect themselves from predators. This can include both Batesian mimicry (harmless species imitating harmful ones) and Müllerian mimicry (two or more harmful species resembling each other).
Certain species of butterflies, according to researchers, undertake incredible migrations, traveling thousands of miles to find suitable breeding grounds and escape unfavorable weather conditions.
They can be found in diverse habitats worldwide, including forests, fields, and gardens. They often prefer areas abundant in nectar-producing plants for feeding and suitable host plants for laying eggs.
Accordingly, adult “Ufio” primarily feed on the nectar of flowers. Their long proboscis allows them to reach deep into flowers to extract nectar.
Like other creatures, butterfly also have fascinating stories around them.
Their transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, emphasizes the themes of inner beauty and self-discovery.
A lady in love is said to have the feeling of butterfly around her. Some ladies also have butterfly tattoos around their attractive body parts such as neck, ankle, waist, as the case may be, signifying self-love.
A very well-known story of the butterfly is “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen, which, although primarily centered on a duckling, symbolizes the transformation of an unattractive creature into a beautiful swan.
History has it that butterflies once participated in the political process of Rivers State. Though the veracity of the story has not been established, we were told that butterflies participated in voting the first civilian governor of old Rivers State, late Chief Melford Okilo, into power.
According to the story, during the governorship elections in 1979, swarms of butterfly flew east ward in different colours and parts of the state during election day. They believe that those butterflies transformed to humans at the polling units and voted for Okilo. Until date, some sections of Ijaw and riverine communities in Rivers and Bayelsa States, refer to a swarm of butterflies as Okilo’s butterflies.
Hausa call it “Kifi”.
Butterflies play a crucial role in pollination, aiding in the reproduction of many plant species.
Butterflies are attracted to bright flowers and need to feed on nectar. When they do this their bodies collect pollen and carry it to other plants. “Kifi” helps fruits, vegetables and flowers to produce new seeds as majority of plants need pollinators like bees and butterflies to reproduce.
Also called “Ẹ̀fọ́n” in Yoruba, the presence of butterflies in an indication of a healthy environment. The add to the environment and play a role in increasing biodiversity, animals and micro-organisms and their ecosystems.
They are also an essential part of the food chain, serving as a food source for various predators such as birds, spiders, lizards, mice and other animals. Caterpillars are also eaten by bats, birds and other animals.
Other threats to “Ẹ̀fọ́n” also include habitat loss, climate change, pesticide use, and pollution, which can have a significant impact on their populations worldwide.