Florida Butterflies- The Monarch Butterfly

21 Nov

A Time to Live

Melody Hendrix

 

The Monarch a beautiful butterfly that can be found all over America, southern Canada and Mexico.  Like all butterflies, Monarchs lifecycle consists of a series of changes called metamorphosis. After mating (below) life begins as a tiny egg about the size of a sesame seed.
The female lays about  100 – 200 eggs on milkweed leaves, their host plant. Within a few days the baby caterpillar starts squirming. It’s ready to hatch.
It chews a hole in the side of the shell and emerges into the world. It’s only about two millimeters long. It snacks on the nutrient-rich shell. But soon it starts feeding on it’s main diet, the milkweed. Monarchs store a poison called Cardiac Glycosides for defense by feeding on the milkweed. The Monarch lets it’s predators know of this poison by the bright colors it wears.
As the caterpillar quickly grows, they shed their skin several times. The caterpillar stage lasts for 9 to 14 days.
Watch the complete alien-like transformation from caterpillar to butterfly below:
 It sheds it’s skin one last time on the underside of a twig.
Firmly attached, the monarch begins pupation, shedding it’s caterpillar clothes for the last time. The “pupae” as it is called now wiggles to release the pullled up skin.
It then stays motionless for about one and a half weeks, as the pupa undergoes a wonderous transformation. The green changes as the exquisit colors start showing through the pupae shell. It’s final metamorphosis accomplished, the new butterfly emerges
At first the wings are quite small, but over the next half hour or so, fluids are pumped into the wings expanding them to their full size. Adult monarchs feed on nectar and water by sipping on it using a sucking tube called a proboscis that lies coiled under the head when not in use. When the butterfly emerges, the tube is still split in two pieces. It will work to mesh them together to form the tube.
Finally the monarch will take to the air for the first time. The adult Monarch will spend it’s life feeding on nectar, pollinating and reproducing. …beginning the lifecycle once again.
The monarch is the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration as birds do. Unlike other butterflies that can overwinter as larvae, pupae, or even as adults in some species, monarchs cannot survive the cold winters of northern climates. Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) perform annual migrations across North America which have been called “one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world”.
Starting in September and October, eastern and northeastern populations migrate from southern Canada and the United States to overwintering sites in central Mexico where they arrive around November. They start the return trip in March, arriving around July. No individual butterfly completes the entire round trip; female monarchs lay eggs for the next generation during the northward migration and at least four generations are involved in the annual cycle.
The fourth generation of the Monarch butterflies are the only ones that migrate.
They live for six to eight months until they again get ready to undertake the return migration.  How these butterflies take a particular direction for migration is an unsolved mystery of our generation.  They fly at speeds ranging between 12 to 25 miles an hour.
Similar to the migrating birds, the monarch butterflies use the clear advantage of updrafts of warm air, called “thermals” and glide as they migrate, to preserve the energy required for flapping their wings all the way through the long 2500 mile voyage from the Great Lakes in Canada to the warm Central Mexican Oyamel fir forests in the Michoacan Hills. They rest there through winter and then complete their migration Northwards in search of milkweed plants in the Eastern United States.
 At the wintering sites in Mexico, they roost in the millions in huge groups in the trees.
The females will lay their eggs on the milkweed leaves, and the cycle goes on until the next fourth generation starts the return migration to complete the cycle north in the spring.
 The Mexican authorities, In 1986, converted 62 square miles of forests in the Sierra Madres to the now renowned Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, home to hundreds of millions of Monarch butterflies during winter. The government further extended the reserve area to an area of 217 acres in the year 2000.
These butterflies use their eyes to locate flowers, they use their antennas to smell the nectar and the minute receptors lodged in their feet called “tarsi” come in handy to taste  sweet substances.
A black spot on an inside surface of its hind wing distinguishes the male Monarch butterflies from the females that have no such spot as the female in the second picture from the top.
Next week I will show you how to raise your own Monarch butterflies to be able to see and experience them close up and populate your garden.

 

 

I am retired and enjoying life. My hobbies are my 5 grandchildren, son and daughter, and my loving husband. I am a photographer and extreme nature lover. I love spending time in my garden or in the wilderness connected to God my Creator.
Melody

3 Responses to “Florida Butterflies- The Monarch Butterfly”

  1. Onisha Ellis November 21, 2017 at 11:19 pm #

    Melody, I think I may have seen one of these lovely butterflies this summer in North Carolina. It was hovering over an orange bloom that matched the butterflies color. I tried to snap a photo but the butterfly was too fast for me.

    Like

  2. divoran09 November 21, 2017 at 2:34 pm #

    Wonderful post!

    Like

  3. Daniel Kemp November 21, 2017 at 6:00 am #

    What a lovely post. Thank you both.

    Liked by 1 person

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