The Monarch Collection
Like all butterflies, Monarch Butterflies go through a complete metamorphosis with four general stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult.
Monarch Butterfly wings are mostly orange with black stripes along the veins. Male Monarch Butterflies can be recognized by a black spot on the upper surface of the hind wing, which female Monarch Butterflies do not have.
Monarch Butterflies do not have lungs, but have tiny vents called spiracles along the sides of the thorax and abdomen. Air enters the spiracles and is dispersed through the body by microscopic tubes called tracheae.
Monarch Butterfly wings usually span about 10 centimeters (a little over 4 inches).
Monarchs usually weigh 0.25 to 0.75 grams. It would take about 50 butterflies to weigh one ounce.
Monarch Butterflies apparently see all the colors we see and at least one more; they seem to see ultraviolet light.
Butterflies have very keen senses of smell, and Monarchs seem to smell chemicals discharged from glands in their wings. Scent probably helps them avoid places where other Monarchs are or have been, except when they are looking for mates.
When play-fighting Monarchs, unlike other butterflies, may actually make contact; the bigger butterfly may knock the smaller one to the ground. This does not harm the smaller butterfly. Monarchs approach one another when they are about to mate or hibernate, so play-fighting is probably a courtship behavior.
Female Monarch Butterflies lay one egg at a time, each egg on a separate milkweed plant if possible. Some have laid 250 eggs in one day. People who rear Monarch Butterflies in captivity have counted the total numbers of eggs laid by different females. The highest number reported so far was 1179.
Butterflies are thought to use their antennae to smell and their feet (tarsi) to taste. They pollinate flowers while extracting flower nectar with a long coiled hollow tube, called the proboscis or “tongue."
Monarch Butterflies are mildly poisonous to animals that eat them. They absorb glycosides from the milkweed they eat. As a result, frogs, birds, and lizards that taste food before swallowing it will spit out a Monarch. Species that gulp food down and are able to regurgitate it will usually vomit after swallowing a Monarch. Species that neither taste nor vomit will seem sick after eating a Monarch, usually survive, but show no interest in eating anything that looks like another Monarch Butterfly.
Each spring, millions of monarch butterflies return to their summer breeding grounds in the northeastern U.S. and Canada, a trek of some 3,000 miles from Mexico where they went to escape the cold of winter—a migration that’s one of the greatest natural events on Earth.
How much do you know about the monarch butterfly?