Time: A positive way to spin mutant butterflies found near Fukushima

Published: August 18th, 2012 at 1:15 am ET


Title: Japan: Mutations in Butterflies Rise Near Nuclear Plant
Source: Time
Author: Tim Newcomb
Date: August 14, 2012

No matter how you cut it, finding mutant butterflies is hard to spin as a positive result. But the knowledge gained from the pale grass blue butterfly, a.k.a. Zizeeria maha,  as the country recovers from one of the world’s worst nuclear could potentially help down the roadpower disasters.


butterflies can be particularly susceptible to radiation; not all animals will suffer a similar fate, which is exactly why researchers want more tests done on different species. “Sensitivity [to irradiation] varies between species, so research should be conducted on other animals,” Joji Otaki, an associate professor at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, told the Japan Times.

Fortunately for humans, they generally fare better than butterflies when it comes to handling radiation. Hopefully much better.

Published: August 18th, 2012 at 1:15 am ET


Related Posts

  1. The Australian: The devastating physical & genetic effects of Japan’s nuclear disaster are revealed — All mutant butterflies were caught far outside Fukushima evacuation zone August 14, 2012
  2. Japan Times: Study finds ‘abnormalities’ in 52% of second generation offspring from butterflies collected May 2011 — Unusually small wings, premature death August 12, 2012
  3. Biologist on Mutated Butterflies: Study is overwhelming in its implications for humans — Japan Researcher: Insects were believed to be very resistant to radiation — Irregularly developed eyes, malformed antennae, much smaller wings (PHOTO) August 13, 2012
  4. Study: Significant decrease in abundance of Fukushima birds and butterflies as radiation levels increase -NYT July 12, 2012
  5. Report: Freaky mutant bugs found — Likely a first, says expert — Prefecture bordering Fukushima (PHOTOS) December 22, 2012

61 comments to Time: A positive way to spin mutant butterflies found near Fukushima

  • Grampybone Grampybone

    All animals have a lethal dose level for consumption of radioactive isotopes Humans included. Butterflies are sensitive creatures,and with the findings of lethal dose levels resulting in mutation in small insects you can determine the rate of the same result in human tissue. A butterfly is a great example of what is about to happen when a food chain dies off on a radioactive exposure clock that we can use to predict how quickly human beings are going to start feeling like these butterflies. Trapped in a cage of unholy transfiguration the residents of the 500km contamination zone will become sick from reaching lethal dose limits while an idle government watches TEPCO take weekends off.

    • CBuck CBuck

      At this point I don't think working weekends is going to make a big difference. They've waited too long and acted too slowly and maliciously.
      The butterfly findings have me wondering about bees. Bees in the US were already hurting and declining in numbers, I'm not sure if it was the case world wide or not. If they pollinate less because of this, the food shortage will happen much more quickly. But then again, even if they don't pollinate less…after they pollinate the radioactive plant life, it won't be long until they are screwed anyway. All I can do is just shake my head at this point.

      • Maggie123

        Bee petition to EPA who are seriously dragging their feet re banning the most suspiciously responsible pesticide here: http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/epa_bees_stalling/?r_by=44947-2726547-ektezrx&rc=confemail. I moved here 2005, apricot tree in full bloom "hummed" from 25ft away with bee noise. Trees are still serviced well, visually crowded with bees, but must be fewer as hum sound much reduced. Might be wild bees, narrower, more black, not quite the 'fat bronze furry' creature of domestics. When I arrived many wasps, across the few years many fewer. I don't especially like wasps and hornets but am carefully giving them their space. They seem to set up nests then abandon them to restart another. Odd. Reduced bumble bee types also. All bee/wasp types (plus other critters) have a tough time!

        • CBuck CBuck

          Thank you for the link. I have noticed the same thing this last year especially. I used to see bees all the time and I can only remember seeing a few this whole summer. It seems insects in general are more sparse these days.
          I'm not a big insect lover so to speak, but I do realize that they all have their place in the ecosystem…one disappears or becomes disabled and it causes a chain reaction, pulling it all down, including us humans. And we think we are so smart.

      • GlowInTheDark GlowInTheDark

        Re: Bees, It could be mites, strong pesticides the beekeepers place in hives, chemtrails or radiation pollution. Even prior to 311, NPP leaked radiation for venting, accidents etc I believe almond glowers in the US hires bees from Oz. It is about the only country yet affected by it and they take the colonies on a working holiday otherwise US almond glowers won't have any almonds 🙁

      • They are already dealing with an acute bee/pollinator crisis in China. Many crops are now pollinated by armies of humans with tiny little brushes. Bees, butterflies, and all pollinator insects should be seen as indicator species (canaries in the coal mine) because they gather up fine particles spread in the environment, be it coal and oil soot, toxic chemicals from human products, pesticides, or radioactive fallout. The worsening health in global pollinators is the indicator of reaching a dangerous level of hazardous materials diffused globally.

        • Alleged higher human tolerance of these poisons is a moot point, even if true. Humans will get higher doses over time as these poisons do not break down, concentrate through the food chain, and more poison is added by us every day. We ignore this at our peril.

    • DUDe DisasterInterpretationDissorder

      Quote Grampybone "Butterflies are sensitive creatures.."

      They also carry a big surface compared to their bodymass to gather the nasties with.

      Btw, good to see you still posting once in a while 🙂

      • Time Is Short Time Is Short

        "They also carry a big surface compared to their bodymass to gather the nasties with."

        So do the morbidly obese, who make up a larger share of the industrialized world. In all the extra calories they consume, what is the effect of personal bioaccumulation in increasingly radioactive food products?

        On the flip side, overweight people who lose weight release the contaminants stored in their body fat, thereby increasing their internal exposure to those same contaminants.

        Essentially, every living life form is now swimming in a sea of silent but lethal radiation, both above ground and below the sea.

  • Ariana

    Nothing left but the cockroaches…

  • CB CB

    Propaganda, don't play. Im so pissed!

    • CB CB

      As the country recovers? Japan will never recover, nor have they accepted the gravity of thier fate. The butterfly effect is in full swing. Only we, and our enemies shadow the secret society that governs us. We see you, open a dialog with us.

  • CBuck CBuck

    I wonder what was threatened, or how much this "professor", was paid to make such an illogical statement about humans faring better than butterflies regarding radiation effects.
    I find it hard to believe that he honestly believes this, but then again, maybe he's one of the ones in Japan who are avoiding sugar and smiling a lot.

    • Maggie123

      I also took notice of "no worry for humans" on two counts – 1, surely given uncertainty of types and levels of exposure, there is cause for humans to be very concerned, and 2, are butterflies "expendable". Then I imagined who he imagined his audience was. I think he may have been speaking to reassure humans, and it would have been "unseemly" to suggest butterflies were of "equal" concern. That's the best explanation I've come up with so far – that he was saying what he thought most helpful to humans during his report on butterfly damage. ??

      • CBuck CBuck

        I understand the desire to not have to be the bearer of bad news to others, but good grief!
        This is the world at stake here, the lives of every single living thing on this planet.
        This is no time to be sugar coating anything, at least tell the truth so that those who will listen can prepare as best they can for what is coming their way.
        Either way, there are dark times ahead. Is it better to have dark times with informed people or dark times with a world full of people "literally" in the dark and then panicking and doing things to make everything worse?
        Maggie, I'm not asking you these things personally…I seem to ask a lot of questions in my posts and this one is no different. 🙂

        • Maggie123

          Well, … since you asked or continued … I'm strong, sometimes ferociously, in favor of all information openly stated. So in principle I very much agree. One reason this world's in the mess it's in is that we've "protected" one another and ourselves from direct sharing of info or confronting when it's needed. I consider it a cultural type of "co-dependent" behavior, and believe we need to learn to speak truth as best we know it with appropriate mindfulness and respect – but speak none-the-less. (Cultural "co-dependent" behaviors is one of my personal talking point themes.) If the expert had followed "not a human concern" with something like "on the other hand, I need to make clear ….", (and had linked risk back to humans), I'd think he'd done a better job. For some reason I visualized a mom living in affected region listening to the information, and felt her need for reassurance. For the people living this most directly it must feel like a surreal trap at times. The wider audience – those of us at a geographical distance – don't need that same kind of reassurance. Unfortunately, and to your point, I saw at least one main stream media pick up of the comment and it seemed to "trumpet" the "not a risk for humans" notion – as if to say: "Hey, us humans, we're not so vulnerable so it's all OK." (See quote next…)

          • Maggie123

            Didn't have room for this above but you might like it:

            "All of humanity is in peril of extinction if each one of us does not, now and henceforth, dare to tell always only the truth, and all the truth, and to do so promptly — right now." (R. Buckminster Fuller, "Critical Path", 1981)

            The quote has become a favorite of mine for the time being!:)

            • Time Is Short Time Is Short

              Fuller and Schweitzer will be both considered true prophets in our increasingly less sure future.

              They both had an uncanny sense for what was necessary to prevent what is now unfolding before us.

              In a sense they may be glad they're not here to witness all this, and what they knew is about to come.

              We certainly don't have anyone in leadership anywhere in the world that comes close to their ethics.

  • CBuck CBuck

    This is the closest thing I could find on an address to respond to the good "professor".
    I have never sent a letter to Japan before, can anyone in the know tell me if the address provided in this link is a full address?

  • dosdos dosdos

    MSM is in a major campaign right now about the radiation effects in Japan. The Minamisoma study on internal exposure is one example. Take the city near the plant that received the least amount of fallout and hold that up as if it were the average. Where are the studies for the residents of Namie, Futaba, and Okuma? Those would show the real picture.

    Add to it all the rash of "no harm was done" experts that are throwing in their 2 cents to make Fukushima seem like some little accident.

    And still, Fukushima wasn't as bad as Chernobyl, and Unit #3 was a hydrogen explosion, and there is no increase in Downs Syndrome in Japan…….

    The thing about Denver being more radioactive that Japan fails to state that there are more respiration therapists per capita in Denver than anywhere else in the world, or that radon is not nearly as harmful to the human body as cesium 134/137 or iodine 131.

    The spin seems to be on a very up cycle right now. Funny thing, though, Fukushima doesn't seem to be going away despite the PR campaign to the contrary. Sometimes it makes me want to puke that people can be so adamant about what they obviously don't understand when human life is at risk.

  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    We must outlaw the cesium spewing reactors.

  • Sol Man

    They were just aiming for a reduction, but due to a slight miscalculation they may have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
    Are you masters of fraud satisfied now?


      @SolMan: it was never in their hands. They were simply allowed to think it was. And though they intended to thin the herd, that plan's been purposely derailed…not by them…

      One must be detached from personal gain, to know what's of value…

  • arclight arclight

    Pr A.Yablokov and Pr C.Busby on Fukushima victim estimations

    "Uploaded by radioactivebsr on Apr 12, 2011
    Alexey Yablokov and Chris Busby participated in the International Radioactivity Risk Kongress in Berlin 6-8.03.2011 (http://www.strahlentelex.de/Abstractband_GSS_2011.pdf ).
    Alexey Yablokov´s with colleges V. B. Nesterenko and A. V. Nesterenko estimation of 1,5 million early deaths in the after Chernobyl period until 2004.
    Yablokov mentions even his college Khudoley, V.V. from N. N. Petrov' Research Institute of Oncology, Center of Independent Environmental Expertise, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russia.

    Yablokov urges to establish rad-monitoring of foods and water, mentioning even marine life forms. He offers the sufficient experience from Chernobyl in areas of Bio Technologies. In the very end of this sequence he even points out the crucial need of independent civil systems for measurement of radiation as industry and state constantly conceal the data, being trapped in the current systems. Yablokov strikes that data based on the ICRP estimation of dose are unscientific and incorrect, leaving governments with unreliable risk estimation models He even informs that the radioactive milk could be reprocessed to be safe again, as there are BioTechnolgies developed for that….."


    • DUDe DisasterInterpretationDissorder

      quote arclight "He even informs that the radioactive milk could be reprocessed to be safe again, as there are BioTechnolgies developed for that….."

      I recently readed somewhere that human milk is now the most poisoness food on the planet PCB-wise thanks to cumulative dynamics being top predator and all. Hopefully they can restore nutrient qualities to where they where before the technologicall revolution with those new BioTechnologies.

      • arclight arclight

        they will not invest in those technologies as long as they allow contaminants in our food.. why should they? the icrp says its ok

        we should be aiming for industry that doesnt pollute our food and water chain..

        it was an interesting point though. and maybe offers some hope for the future in japan as far as bioaccumulation goes..

        though while some countries allow excessive levels the trade in contaminated produce will go on for the corporations.. they can mix the contamination down (in theory) so the japanese food exports havent suffered as much as you might think

        the high level contaminated milk is sold to NAFTA and exported to usa, canada and mexico in the form of confectioary products.. given to the children basically.. usa confectionary corprorations actually have been doing this if you look at the impport export data that is available..


        • DUDe DisasterInterpretationDissorder

          quote arclight "they will not invest in those technologies as long as they allow contaminants in our food.. why should they? the icrp says its ok"

          Yes you are right , but that era is almost over now. We are digging tunnels of information and awareness underneath the elite's evil empire . Soon their power to control (or hide) the moral compass of humanity will start collapsing, scratch that, it has already started imo.

          Peace arclight 😉

          • DUDe DisasterInterpretationDissorder

            And we will DESTROY the bussiness calculator they put in place of the morall compass . WITHOUT MERCY ! 🙂

      • StPaulScout StPaulScout

        D.I.D. – The great push in the U.S. is to de-regulate industry. Don't you know, if you let them do whatever they want the 'market' will see to it they do the right thing?


        • DUDe DisasterInterpretationDissorder

          Hmmm, at first glimpse not a nice post….
          Yes , i'm fully aware of what they are doing for so long now on the other side of the scale. I'm allowing myself to react positive on patterns i see globally emerge because i'm convinced they will inevitably replace the current power balances. I believe the spreading of awareness is locked in with the spreading of the toxic and desease and will behave in synchronity. Therefore it is unstoppable in nature leading without violence to what i posted early…no matter what raindances the sociopathic right wing freakshow are performing. There are still very critical moments like the election , and we have to be very carefull these subhumanoids of the world don't kill us in a last mega effort for absolute control of resources and their precious human cattle , but in the long term i consider it done.

          Now, i'm not sure ofcourse , but your post suggest the possibility that you consider me a naive village idiot or something, witch is not nice.

          I don't consider myself naive , undereducated maybe, but not naive , atleast not cronically. Here is my first piece of opinion that i posted here:


          • DUDe DisasterInterpretationDissorder

            In case your post was in good humour , sorry for my grumpy tone StPaulScout , english is not my first language and i'm getting a bit exhausted explaining myself.
            No harm done ok?

        • DUDe DisasterInterpretationDissorder

          Quote D.I.D "Now, i'm not sure ofcourse , but your post suggest the possibility that you consider me a naive village idiot or something, witch is not nice."

          And another fine example of me making hairy ass out of myself , darn , i hate social microdynamics, i can't read them, social dyslexia, sry StPaulScout , everybody 🙁

  • NoNukes NoNukes

    Did butterflies (and everyone else) downwind of Nevada know to steer clear July 26, 2012, because of the nuclear testing? Thanks, Time, for letting us know…oh, that's right, you didn't.

    July 26, 2010 – Simulated Underground Nuclear Test in Nevada Involving Real Radioactivity Carried Out

    The U.S. Energy Department conducted on July 24, 2012 a 'Source Physics Experiment' – or a tiny, 'simulated' underground nuclear blast in Nevada – that a 2010 government 'white paper' noted would involve the direct release of radioisotopes into the environment to mimic the accidental venting of a low-yield underground nuclear detonation.

    Although the Energy Department press release announcing this treaty-verification experiment – the third since May 2011 – didn't mention the release of radioactive gasses or particles, the 2010 white paper stated that, concurrent with the second or third Source Physics Experiment, a 'release of short-lived isotopes (e.g., via shallow underground chemical explosion, direct spraying, or other controlled release) will be used for high-fidelity radiometric measurements at the surface…' The press release noted that four more of these experiments are planned…


  • StPaulScout StPaulScout

    "Fortunately for humans, they generally fare better than butterflies when it comes to handling radiation."

    I would like to see the study they base this statement on.

    "Hopefully much better."

    Never mind, the above statement suggests to me there is no study…..

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    HELLO..Tim Newcomb ..Time.com
    Tell it to the children of Chernobyl.


    Heart of the Rose

    PS..What you see is from only one reactor..do the math.

  • aigeezer aigeezer

    The Time spin is modest compared to the spin on this pro-nuke site:


    War is peace. Love is hate. Nuke is safe. "No one received a harmful dose of radiation from Fukushima." No kidding – he really says that quote.

    • CBuck CBuck

      His first sentence is offensive, right along with the rest of this piece of "writing".
      If he honestly believes what he writes then he is sadly misinformed, if he doesn't believe it and writes it anyway then he is sadly evil.

  • This idea that certain lifeforms are more resistant to radiation implying that just because a few butterflies get mutated doesn't mean that humans have to worry is very misleading. DDT killed insects but had no immediate effect on human beings. Yet it was eventually banned as a probable cancer causing agent to humans. Of course the industry fought the ban just like the nuclear industry today maintains that Nuclear Power is safe despite evidence showing otherwise.


    I think the mutated butterfly story came out because those studying butterfly's are not funded by the nuclear industry. But the spin is.

    The butterfly's are telling us that radiation is bad and harms life. Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. The spin doctors are saying butterfly's have low resistance to radiation compared to humans so we shouldn't worry. Reckless. If radiation can do that to butterflies it must do something bad to humans. Don't need a degree to figure that out. But some intrepid souls market their degree to become experts at telling the public what the nuclear power poison factories want the public to hear. Too bad the Nuclear Power industry has more money then the DDT manufactures in the 60's. Still the writing is on the wall. "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time". Especially with the internet, Abe.

  • arclight arclight

    FRIDAY, AUGUST 17, 2012
    "Butterfly Mutations Caused by #Fukushima #Radiation" a Redux of the Sokal Affair?

    "…Hmmm… I think the anonymous researcher may be right. If this paper is a fishing expedition, it may have been designed to achieve the following, as the researcher explains in his website:
    It would reveal that the media doesn't understand what it is reporting.

    It would reveal the soundness (or lack thereof) of the scientific mindset in the Internet society.

    It would reveal the problem the scientific world faces – a paper gets published without being properly evaluated, and once published it is considered "the truth"…."


    • I strongly disagree that the paper is a fishing expedition.

      COMMENT (excerpted)

      The researchers seem to have done the best they could, albeit there are limitations to the study.

      Please read the comments carefully:

      Anonymous said…
      These particular butterflies' original, natural habitat is southern, warmer locales such as Okinawa, and Kyushu, Shikoku.

      These butterflies have been known to have a lot of mutations as it migrates ever northward, far outside their natural habitat, LONG BEFORE the Fukushima accident, and it has been well studied and the results published

      Why did these researchers pick this particular species prone to mutations if they really wanted to isolate the effect of radiation?

      A:We use the pale grass blue butterfly Zizeeria maha (Lepidoptera, Lycaenidae) as an indicator species to evaluate the environmental conditions. A reliable rearing method has been established for this species24. Butterflies are generally considered useful environmental indicators10, 15, 25, 26, and this species is particularly suitable for this purpose because it is widespread in Japan, including the Fukushima area, and because its wing colour patterns are sensitive to environmental changes24, 27. In the past, this species was used to evaluate the ecological risk associated with transgenic maize pollen28, 29.

      The Joji Otaki paper you quote in your post is, in fact, cited and used – it's footnote 27 above.


      • But did they actually measure radiation in the butterflies? They seem to have tested the leaves that the butterflies eat, but not the butterflies themselves.

        Because this was a test to track genetic and physical mutations through generations, not radiation levels. The control group was used to compare resulting mutations through their generations vs. that of others collected in the affected area.

        The truly newsworthy aspect to this study is just how much damage very low exposures over time can be – 'very low' being fractions of what is generally considered 'safe'. That's going to cause a lot of raised eyebrows.

        I really, truly love the blog – and I can't imagine how difficult it's been to keep it going as you have, for so long. Kudos!
        And it's incredibly important. Please do take the time to read the study fully, to answer your remaining questions not addressed above. And anyone commenting who has yet to do the same.


        Best to all from Dave in Toronto
        August 18, 2012 4:10 PM


        Nancy said…
        The point about their control group being south and the species being known to have mutations related to traveling north is a solid problem. Comparing the same butterfly in Akita if it follows a migration path up both sides of Honshu would be probably the best control group comparison. About the same direction north. The fact that the species is prone to radiation is exactly why you use it. But you do so knowing it is prone to mutation and compare against it in other situations. This doesn't fail the study. It shows a factor they may not have been compensated for that confounds the study.

        This is the huge problem with studies. Things that in another area of study would be fine to be vague or have a few unknowns don't get such scrutiny.

        Studies on Fukushima is like jumping in a shark tank. Everyone will be dissecting the work and these researchers are just not prepared for it.


        • CONT COMMENT 2

          I found many issues with the JAMA letter about Minamisoma exposures. It is full of problems and things not accounted for.

          Yet the media is heralding it as proof nobody was considerably exposed. It says no such thing. I don't blame the researchers other than their naivety.

          The letter was to give an initial glimpse into their work. The media is treating it as the final paper and concrete proof. It only looks at one tiny slice of the whole exposure spectrum during one small period of time.

          It is useful information. It is not conclusive proof of wider issues or the whole story of those people's exposures.
          August 18, 2012 7:33 AM

      • My question is WHY is Ex-SKF attacking this study so strongly given the amount of total baloney that is produced with the deliberate goal of propaganda?

        Why doesn't he call into question all the main stream news headlines that have shouted "NO EFFECTS" by limiting effects to acute radiation syndrome?

        I am really disappointed with Ex-SKF.

        The study may have some limitations but is does raise questions and begs for further research to be conducted.

        It provides a valuable service to the people of Japan.

        • arclight arclight

          i suppose credibility is the aim for exskf.. always a strong point, sometimes it can go the other way!

          ie me and pistachios 🙂

          people can make their own minds up and their is other supporting evidence beggining to appear.. the Japanese government cant cover that up! imo


    • No offense intended Arclight

      Your posts are always very instructive.

      I was just upset last night when I read Ex-SKF's vociferous attack against a study I feel he should be applauded for even being conducted….

  • GlowInTheDark GlowInTheDark

    More mutations. Nature is transforming the scenary of Fukushima but the title says mysterious plants found within the no-go zone.
    I certainly haven't seen such weird looking tall roadside plants.


  • GlowInTheDark GlowInTheDark

    and these aubergines (…eggplants for you guys in the US) from Fukushima. The farmer says he's seen double aubergines but not five coming out of one stem. He's been farming for 55 years.

  • GlowInTheDark GlowInTheDark

    A giant mushroom measuring 30cm in diameter found in Kumamoto-city.