Monarch butterflies are one of the most iconic and fascinating butterflies. Let’s look at some of the things that make monarchs stand out in the crowd.
Is the Monarch Endangered?
Yes, monarch butterflies were officially added to the endangered species list in July 2022.
Monarch butterflies may be one of the most recognized butterflies around the world however their numbers are on the decline. Since 2014 Monarch’s were put on the threatened species list and have been under observation. Conservation groups believe the monarch population has plummeted due to Forest degradation of their overwintering grounds and the use of herbicides on the caterpillar’s only food source of Milkweed.
What is Monarch Host Plant?
Milkweed is the only host plant for monarch caterpillars. Milkweed contains cardiac glycosides which are toxic to most animals when eaten but not for the monarch caterpillars.
Eating milkweed can cause animals extreme discomfort that includes vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, seizures, and in rare extreme cases death.
The milkweed’s toxicity keeps predators away and also makes the monarch caterpillar toxic if eaten.
Are They Poisonous?
Yes, Monarch caterpillars and butterflies are poisonous. The Monarch caterpillar’s diet of milkweed remains in the system for the rest of the monarch’s life. Which makes the butterfly just as poisonous as milkweed itself.
The monarch’s beautiful orange and black wings are easy for birds and other animals to see but are like the skull and crossbones warning in the animal kingdom. In fact, several other species of butterflies like the Viceroy and Queen butterfly have similar orange and black markings that mimic the monarch to keep predators away.
Where do they live?
Monarch butterflies are typically found in North, Central, and South America. They can also be found in Australia, Hawaii, some pacific islands, India, and western Europe.
Monarchs can be found in the city and countryside, wherever there is enough nectar and milkweed plants to lay their eggs on.
Do all Monarchs migrate?
No, only North American Monarchs migrate. Monarchs of the Atlantic, Pacific, Central and South America have lost the ability to migrate according to https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/monarch-migration. In fact, the article says migratory and non-migratory monarchs even have different genes.
Where Do Monarchs Migrate to?
Migratory Monarchs in the Americas undertake a great migration 2 times a year. Every spring monarchs fly north to their summer breeding grounds around the United States and Canada. It takes several generations to make populate the north regions.
As the sun sets earlier and the days and nights get cooler the last generation of the season head south to their over-wintering grounds. Monarchs fly to central Mexico or southern California every year. Some monarchs fly over 2,500 miles just to get there!
How long do they live?
Monarchs have different lifespans depending on when they were born. The average life span for the spring and summer “generation monarchs” have a life span of about 4-6 weeks.
The winter generation or the monarchs that migrate south to winter live between 6-8 months!
Did you know?
A female monarch can lay up to 700 in about 2 weeks and can lay up 1,000 eggs in her lifetime.
When you see one of these amazing insects in your garden take an extra moment to appreciate their beauty and all the things that make them a very unique breed of butterfly.