The Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly
Monarch Butterfly

The Monarch Butterflies are known for their brilliant colors. Like many “snowbirds” they winter in Florida, along the coast of Texas and into Mexico. They can also be found in South America, Australia and even in some Pacific Islands.

They follow the same migrations every year in huge migrations; up to a billion Monarchs just in Mexico alone migrate there!

Monarchs only eat Milkweed so if you wish to attract Monarchs you would need to plant them as long as they can grow in your areas. For growing instructions for milkweed I suggest you go to http://www.livemonarch.com/growinginstructions.htm for more information.

Milkweed
Milkweed

Most insects that are brightly colored are usually a deterrent to predators. Meaning they are poisonous to eat. The Monarch Butterflies eats only the Milkweed and consumes the toxins that are in them. Thus the Monarch butterflies are poisonous to eat and other critters stay well away from them.

Caterpillar
Caterpillar

 

Their wingspan is quite large at five inches however, more typically it is about four inches in length. You will identify the Monarch by bright orange wings covered with black veins and rimmed with a black border and white dots. The female Monarchs havethicker veins in their wings.

 

Scientists aren’t sure how migrating monarchs know which way to go, since they only live a few months and none makes the journey more than once. Toward the end of winter, the monarchs in Mexico and California mate. The males then die, while the females head north, depositing eggs on milkweed plants along the way and eventually dying themselves. From these tiny, round eggs come small green-and-white-striped caterpillars, which feed on the milkweed leaves. For a
bout two weeks, they eat constantly and grow by shedding their skin. They are then ready to transform into pupae. To become a pupa, also called a chrysalis, a monarch larva attaches itself with silk to a leaf or branch, sheds its skin, and forms a hard shell. This vase-shaped case starts out green with shiny golden dots and slowly becomes white, then see-through. After 9 to 15 days, a fully formed butterfly emerges.

Pupa - Chrystalist
Pupa – Chrysalis

The entire egg-to-butterfly process, called metamorphosis, takes about a month. Once out of the pupa, the damp butterfly inflates its wings with blood stored in its abdomen. It must wait for its wings to dry before it flies away. Adult butterflies don’t grow. They survive by drinking nectar from flowers, including milkweed, clover, and goldenrod.

 

Scientists think North American monarchs have been making their amazing annual journey for thousands of years. But logging in Mexico has greatly reduced forests where these butterflies roost. Efforts to protect these lands are helping, but illegal logging still takes a toll. Since 1983, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the monarch migration as a “threatened phenomena.”

 

 

Monarch-Butterfly