Monarch butterflies are the most recognizable butterfly for most of us. Everyone knows the orange and black wings. Most people know that they are caterpillars first, then go through metamorphosis and become butterflies. Did you know that they migrate to the same place each year for generations of butterflies that they never met? Did you know that they prefer milkweed, which is dying off?
Here are some more marvels of the Monarch butterfly:
- Monarch caterpillars prefer milkweed to eat. They are voracious eaters, gaining around 2700 x’s their original weight as caterpillars. Milkweed is dying off due to development of prairies and fields. One reason is because the toxins in milkweed make them so distasteful to predators. They toxins attack the nervous system in their vertebrae predators, like frogs and lizard.
- Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains will migrate to southern California for the winter, while those east of the mountain range migrate to Mexico. Even though they can travel up to 200 miles a day, it can take them up to two months to make this trek.
- Monarchs use high air currents and thermals during migration. The highest recorded Monarch was at 11,000ft! That’s higher than most birds fly and migrate, which is around 2,000ft.
- During the summer trek north, Monarchs produce three generations that only live 2-6 weeks. Females can lay 250 eggs a day, one at a time. They
continue to produce generations until they arrive at their northern destination. Usually the fourth generation lives about 8-9 months and is the one to make the migration south in the autumn. Somehow they know the way and follow the same route previous generations took, even returning to the same tree of their great great grandparents.
- Monarchs need to have a body temperature of 86 degrees in order to fly. They will sit and wait for warmer temperatures or shiver their wings to warm up.
- Monarchs do not have lungs. They breathe through trachea tubes and vents in their thorax or abdomen.
- A black spot on the inside of the hind wing depicts males; females do not have this spot.
- Monarchs can see a large range of colors, as well as UV light.
- In 1986, Mexican authorities set aside 62 square miles of the Sierra Madres to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve; expanded to 217 acres in 2000.
- The Monarch is the state butterfly of several states – Alabama, Texas, Idaho, Illinois, West Virginia, & Minnesota.
Defenders of Wildlife. Basic Facts of Monarch Butterflies. 2016. http://www.defenders.org/monarch-butterfly/basic-facts
Krahenbuhl, Peter Davis. Good Nature Travel. On a Wing and a Prayer: 5 Fascinating Facts about the Monarch Butterfly. August 22, 2015. http://goodnature.nathab.com/on-a-wing-and-a-prayer-5-fascinating-facts-about-the-monarch-butterfly/
Learn About Nature. Web. 2016. http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/monarch-butterflies-facts.html
National Geographic. Monarch Butterfly. Web. 2016. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/monarch-butterfly/
Live Monarch. Web. 2016. https://www.livemonarch.com/monarch-facts.htm