The meaning behind the monarch butterfly on PopSci’s latest cover

Those tiny wings carry a lot of meaning and weight.

Butterflies may seem delicate, but they are surprisingly tough. The monarch’s crisp coloring is what makes it turn heads, but the creature’s greatest feat is its annual migration, which takes it from southern Mexico to the Canadian border. Over the last several decades, however, the insect’s population has fallen nearly 90 percent due to habitat loss. Yet there’s reason to hope: It lays up to 400 eggs in one sitting, so small conservation efforts have been enough to prevent it from going extinct.

The fluttery specimen on the cover is taxidermied, which allowed photography duo The Voorhes to pose it just right. Construction rubble from around their neighborhood in Austin, Texas, completed the scene, along with an overhead light and a sky-blue backdrop. The pair used photo-editing software to add clouds and some finishing touches, transforming the tiny setup into a triumphant portrait of resilience.

PopSci cover behind the scenes
TK The Voorhes


This story appears in the Winter 2020, Transformation issue of Popular Science.