The printing press made images widely available to the public in the 17th century. Drawings of animals were popular, especially those that accurately captured details of insect life history. Drawings such as the one at left convey information about lifecycle, metamorphosis and host plants. Images readily cross language barriers. This painting by a German, Maria Sibylla Merian, living in The Netherlands is readily understood by Americans today without translation.
By the 17th century, the idea of spontaneous generation had been rejected by the educated classes. Insects were no longer believed to arise spontaneously from mud or rotting meat. If insects did not arise from mud, how do they form? A new narrative was needed. The beautiful life cycle illustrations promoted a richer and more compelling story. It allowed people to share these fascinating life history stories with others and spread important information about insect biology.