The Monarch Butterfly

by on July 13th, 2015
Share Button

Monarch refers to royalty and the monarch butterfly is definitely the king of the butterfly world. The monarch butterfly is easily recognizable with orange wings outlined in black. The outer edges of the wings are rimmed with small white dots. The monarch is sometimes confused with the viceroy butterfly. The viceroy is smaller and has a thin black line across the bottom wings.

There are four stages of the monarch butterfly:

The Egg

Eggs are laid in early spring and hatch in a few days. The milkweed plant is vitally important to the monarch butterfly’s survival. Without the milkweed the monarch would become extinct because they only lay their eggs on milkweed plants. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on the milkweed for several weeks. The monarch caterpillar is a beautiful specimen with stripes of black, yellow and white.

The Larvae

Once the larvae, otherwise known as caterpillars, hatch, they spend about two weeks munching on the milkweed. After the caterpillars are fully developed, they search for a sturdy stem to attach them and spin the chrysalis.

The Pupa

The monarch caterpillar spins a beautiful jade green pupa, also called a chrysalis, with a gold thread running around the top. In the chrysalis, the caterpillar will complete the transformation to a butterfly in about 10 days. As the caterpillar gets closer to becoming a butterfly, the pupa begins to change to a clear color and the orange and black wings are visible.

The Adult Butterfly

Once the butterfly hatches from the pupa, it rests in the sun to dry its wings. Butterflies get their energy from the sun and are most active in the heat of the day. A monarch butterfly has a life span of two to six weeks. Before it dies, it will lay eggs and another generation of monarch butterfly will begin.

There are 4 generations of monarch butterflies in the span of a year. The first, second and third all have normal cycles and lifespans but the fourth generation of monarch butterflies lives much longer than just a few weeks. The fourth generation migrates hundreds of miles away to California and Mexico for the winter. The monarch migration usually happens in October. Their homing instinct is so strong that it leads them to migrate to the same trees every year, even though the butterflies have never been there. The monarch butterfly is the only insect that travels such a long distance to migrate.

The monarch butterfly is an amazing creature from start to finish but conservationists are concerned because more and more of the butterfly’s habitats are disappearing. Help the monarch butterfly by planting a milkweed plant and butterfly friendly flowers in the garden. The rewards will be breathtaking!

Prev Article: »
Next Article: «

Related Articles