Butterfly populations are a very good indicator of the health of an area's ecosystem !!
Image 4 contributed by U.K
photographer Steve Oddy.
Also known as the Milkweed Butterfly, Common Tiger, Wanderer, or The Black Veined Brown.
There are 2 different variant species of Monarch butterflies living in North America and South America.
The Caribbean is host to both species. While the Monarchs are considered indigenous to the Americas, they can also be found in Australia, New Zealand and several islands between Australia and Tahiti.
They can also be found in parts of Hawaii and Europe.
Monarch caterpillars are voracious feeders, able to consume a milkweed leaf in less than 5 minutes. During this caterpillar stage, they will gain about 2700 times their original weight , and excrete a tremendous amount of frass (waste).
A black spot on the inside surface of the hind wing indicates a male Monarch, as the female has no such black spot.
Monarchs flap their wings more slowly than any other species, at 300 - 720 beats per minute.
The female of the species lays eggs one at a time, and can lay up to 250 eggs per day.
Monarchs fly at 12 - 25 mph, and will migrate between 2,000 - 3,000 per migration.
(3 generations will live in the U.S. and Canada, and the 4th will migrate to Mexico.)
Monarchs have a life expectancy of 2 - 6 weeks.
Avg. Wingspan: 7 - 10 cm / 3 - 4 "
Diet: caterpillars take milkweed exclusively. (This makes them toxic to predators.)
Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta, Order: Lepidoptera
* The Monarch is the official state butterfly of Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
** Join the World Wildlife Fund’s Monarch Squad today to find out what you can do to save the Monarch butterfly.
* There are several sub - species of Monarch butterflies around the world.
* Monarchs are participants in what is known as “Batesan mimicry”. Because the milkweed that they eat as caterpillars makes them poisonous as butterflies to predators, other butterflies such as the Viceroy, which are very similar in appearance, benefit from predators’ reluctance to eat them.
* Being Brush-footed butterflies, Monarchs have a short pair of fore legs that are used to taste food, and two pairs of longer rear legs that are used for propulsion.
Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
Viceroy (Limentis archippus)
** As seen in these images of a Monarch and a Viceroy, their appearances are very similar. This is because the two species practice Batesian Mimicry. (The Monarch larva eat milkweed exclusively, which causes them to be poisonous to predators when the larva become butterflies.)
Because of this toxicity, predators avoid eating Monarchs. The Viceroy has evolved to look very similar to the Monarch, and is able to avail itself of the predator's distaste for and avoidance of Monarchs.
Most scientists believe that the relationship between these tow is actually a Mullerian Mimicry, where the 2 species both look alike and are both distasteful to predators.
(The easiest way to differentiate between the Monarch and the Viceroy is to look for the transverse black lines on the trailing edge of the wings. The Viceroy has these transverse lines, whereas the Monarch does not.)
The single biggest threat to butterfly survival is habitat destruction!!