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Discovery Magazine 11/1/2004

The Multi – Million Dollar Menace

If you were to look around the room, you would see all sorts of things that have been made using cotton. The clothes you are wearing are probably made of cotton. The curtains on the windows probably have a blend of cotton in them. You might not know it, but “paper” money (like a 5-dollar bill) has cotton in it. That is why dollar bills hold up better when they are accidentally washed than other types of paper.

What does all this cotton have to do with insects? As any cotton grower could tell you, there is one insect that is a cotton farmer’s worst nightmare—the boll weevil. The boll weevil has been perfectly designed to eat cotton! It has a long snout that it uses to chew holes in bolls of cotton. A cotton boll is the “fruit” of the cotton plant where the actual cotton grows.

Not only does the boll weevil eat the cotton bolls, but it also lays eggs in the bolls. A female boll weevil lays one egg inside a cotton boll. She then covers the hole with a specially designed substance that forms something like a wart over the hole. The boll often turns yellow and falls to the ground, ruining the cotton. The egg inside the boll hatches after about 3-5 days, and the baby weevil eats the food in the boll. The baby weevil grows into an adult in about three weeks. Wow, that is a fast-growing baby!

Over the years, boll weevils have cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in ruined cotton. So why would God design a bug that has all the equipment to destroy good cotton? First, we must remember that God has very good reasons for doing what He does, and we often do not understand them. Maybe the cotton plant would grow out of control without the weevil or maybe certain other bugs or birds need the weevil as a source of food. Second, we humans are the ones who decided we like cotton so much. If the beetle was eating the thistle plant, we would be happy. Third, God has given humans the intelligence to be able to control bugs like the boll weevil, so that we can still produce cotton. Not only did God design the boll weevil perfectly, but He also designed humans perfectly as well.

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