The mighty Monarch Butterfly spends the summer here in North America. Then, they migrate to Mexico or Southern California for the cold months.
A few live in Southern California, Texas and Florida all year long.
They also live in the Mediterranean area, Indonesia, Australia, Hawaii and some Pacific Islands.
The Monarch's orange wings have black veins and black edges with two rows of white dots.
The fore-wing is a little brighter orange than their hind-wings.
This is especially noticeable on the underside of their wings.
Males have an enlarged spot their hind wings containing a scent pouch. The scent pouch is lacking on the females.
The female's veins are a little bit thicker and her wing-span is slightly smaller than the male's.
Monarch butterflies taste bad because of a chemical their caterpillars eat from the butterfly weed.
Other butterflies mimic Monarchs so birds think they taste bad and won't eat them.
The Viceroy Butterflies look very similar to Monarchs.
But notice the heavy black band across their hind-wings?
The Monarch is lacking these heavy black bands.
The Viceroy is also about an inch smaller than the Monarch.
The Queen Butterfly is another butterfly, also mistaken for a Monarch.
The topside of the Queen is lacking black veins.
The underside of the Queen looks very similar to the Monarch.
But the Queen Butterfly has white spots out in the middle of its fore-wings.
The Monarch migration has made them a favorite butterfly of many people.
They have never been where they are going. Their grandparents or ancestors flew there, but they have never been there.
How do they know where they are going? This is one of the very interesting Monarch butterflies facts scientists have been trying to answer.
Some scientists think the Monarch butterflies sense the magnetic field in the earth.
Monarchs migrate every year up to 2,000 miles.
Monarchs fly south down to Florida or the Texas gulf coast and then out across the Gulf to Mexico. Many also fly from California to Mexico.
Amazing! What courageous beauties!
How can a little butterfly go 2,000 miles? How can they do it?
Who taught them? More about Butterflies
Members of their family sat on these very same trees in previous years.
They go right back to the same area where their ancestors have over-wintered in previous generations.
By mid-November the fir trees in the area where they overwinter are covered with them.
They are relatively inactive during the winter. They hang together in large clusters on the trees.
In early spring they will start feeding, breed and produce a new generation.
Then about mid-March the new generation will start back north.
How awesome is that!
They fly north into the southern United States.
When they get there they lay eggs and produce another generation.
The eggs hatch and the new generation keeps flying north.
In the fall, between August to October, they start heading back south.
It is the third or fourth generation since they left Mexico.
Monarchs are amazing to start with for the way they can migrate thousands of miles every year.
Butterfly metamorphosis is more amazing. How can a caterpillar change into a beautiful butterfly? It must be God's secret.
Butterflies mate and then the female lays her eggs.
A female butterfly may lay several hundred eggs during her lifetime.
She lays her eggs on the host plant the caterpillar will eat for food.
She generally lays them on the underside of leaves to help protect them from predators.
And the Monarch Butterfly life cycle begins.
Monarchs lay their eggs on butterfly milkweed.
When the eggs hatch the caterpillar feeds on the milkweeds.
The glycoside chemical in milkweeds make Monarch Butterflies toxic and taste bad to predators.
Plant one of the more than 100 varieties of milkweeds to feed the Monarch caterpillars.
The Monarch Butterflies will come to feed from the flowers and lay eggs on butterfly milkweed, so include them in your landscape.
Also, include plenty of fall blooming flowers for butterflies, such as Asters and Mexican Sunflowers to feed the Monarchs that are migrating south for the winter.
Butterflies bring so much joy to our backyard gardens.
Invite the mighty Monarch Butterfly to your yard.
Starting with the butterfly eggs, the caterpillar and pupa, the butterfly chrysalis and then the butterfly is born.
Butterfly eggs are tiny and sometimes they have designs on them.
The eggs may be various colors white, cream, tan, etc.
It all depends on the type of butterfly.
You can attract butterflies to your garden by planting the host plants caterpillars like to eat.
In a few days the eggs hatch into lava, commonly known as a caterpillar. It eats its egg shell and then eats and eats.
Caterpillars don’t have a skeleton like we do. They have a hard shell on the outside of their body.
They have like armored plates with a softer flesh connecting the plates together. It’s called an exoskeleton and it does not grow.
Caterpillars have a voracious appetite. They are eating machines. It only stops eating when it outgrows its exoskeleton.
When its body grows too big for its exoskeleton, it will stop eating to shed its skin, its exoskeleton. Then it will keep eating and shed its skin several times, as it grows larger.
A great way to attract butterflies is to provide the host plants that the caterpillars like to feed on. Include some caterpillar host plants in your garden.
The Monarch caterpillar gorges itself for a couple of weeks. When the caterpillar gets to full size it meta-morphs into a pupa.
When it grows to about two inches, it attaches its hind end to a branch with some silk.
It then sheds its skin and reveals a soft butterfly pupa on the inside.
In a few hours the butterfly pupa hardens into what is called the butterfly chrysalis.
Then in ten to fourteen, days depending on the temperature, God works His wonders for Monarchs.
Some butterflies may take weeks or longer in this stage.
One of the most interesting facts about the Monarch Butterfly life cycle, is how the butterfly forms inside the chrysalis?
It is a special gift and only God knows how it works.
The butterfly chrysalis becomes transparent and you see the butterfly forming on the inside.
When the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, its body is very large and full of fluid.
The butterfly comes out head first. The wings are small.
The new butterfly hangs onto the chrysalis shell for a while and starts pumping fluid from its body into its wings.
The wings expand, as the fluid goes into them. After the wings are fully expanded they are still wet.
The butterfly hangs there for an hour or two until its wings dry. Then the new butterfly takes flight.
The wonder of it all! You have a brand new Monarch!
It has gone from a caterpillar to a butterfly, thus completing its metamorphosis.
Most butterflies live only a few weeks. Migrating Monarch will live for several months.
The adults will mate and lay eggs and the Monarch Butterfly life cycle goes around again.
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