The monarch butterfly is the most recognizable butterfly in the world, mainly due to its easily identifiable pattern and color on its wings. The monarch has a distinctive orange and black pattern on its wings. Male’s butterflies will have a central black spot on its hind wings as well as being a bit larger than female monarchs. Female monarchs will have darker veins on their veins, though his may be difficult to make out.
There are actually two types of subspecies in the Monarch butterfly family. The main difference between the two is that one subspecies, the Danaus p. plexippus, migrates and the other subspecies, the Danaus p. megalippe, does not. Migratory monarchs are generally found in North America, because of the climate changes and non-migratory monarchs are found in hot climates around the equator.
The start of the annual migration will commence sometime between the start of August and the years first frost. The monarch’s annual migration does tend to be long, specifically compared to the monarchs life span of about 2 months. Northward travel then tends to occur in the spring, when the temperature is noticeably warmer.
Unlike most of the world’s insects the monarchs are one of very few that can migrate across the Atlantic Ocean. They have been sited in Great Britain, New Zealand and Hawaii. Australia also has a population of monarchs, both migratory and non-migratory.
Monarch butterflies store milkweed poison when they are caterpillars and are hence poisonous when in butterfly form. The bright orange color of their wings is supposed to be a warning sign. Due to this survival mechanism the viceroy butterfly has adapted to look like the Monarch, but it is not poisonous.
To attract monarchs to your garden you can plant specific milkweed plants that monarchs use as food. It is also possible to grow and nurture your monarch caterpillar until it is in butterfly form where you can release it into the wild. Laws have been passed to make it illegal to deforest monarch butterfly over wintering grounds to help the butterfly population.
Monarchs actually care for their children/caterpillars until they turn into a butterfly. It takes about 9 months, or a wintering period, for the caterpillar to develop and be born. Once the child is about 13 it will get its first pair of wings and go out into the unknown world. Most monarchs tend to form their own cocoon away from their parents.
The following birds have built up a tolerance to the poison in Monarch butterflies. Robins, Pinyon Jays, Cardinals, Brown Thrushes, Sparrows, Scrub Jays, and Grackles all like to eat monarchs. Asian ladybug species will eat the monarch eggs and larvae.