10 Fact about Monarch Butterflies that I bet you didn’t know.
Sadly, the Monarch Butterfly is in trouble and could be extinct very soon. If we continue to cause climate change and destroy their foraging areas, the Monarch Butterfly will become extinct.
I have been working on increasing their numbers in my own back yard for the last three years.
In North America, it can be seen already that Climate change is causing a huge loss of habitats. The ever-increasing Carbon Dioxide levels will make the Milkweed too toxic for the Monarch Caterpillars to stomach.
We need to act now.
In this Article I’m going to share 10 facts about Monarch Butterflies, I hope you enjoy it and learn something new, that will encourage you to join me in saving these beautiful butterflies from extinction.
1. What does a Monarch Butterfly look like?
They are very beautiful orange and black butterflies. See the picture below, this is of a Monarch Butterfly in my garden.
2. How do you tell a Male from a Female?
The easiest way to tell you is by showing you this picture of a male and female butterfly.
Can you see the black dot on the bottom wings on one of these butterflies? That is the Male
3. How long does a Monarch Butterfly live for?
In New Zealand in the Summer months, a Monarch lives for about 60-70 days.
However, Butterflies born at the end of Summer will live 7 to 9 months, wintering on a tree in certain locations around the country.
In New Zealand, we have sites in Christchurch, North and South Canterbury, Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Nelson, Whakatane, and Westport.
What is amazing? How do these butterflies take themselves to places where their ancestors have been every winter, without knowing where to go (a bit of a phenomenon).
In Canada (Great Lakes) they make their way from Canada (2500 miles) to the warm Central Mexican Oyamel fir forests in the Michoacan Hills and hang in the trees till its time to move North again and look for milkweed and to start laying eggs again.
Now if you weren’t that fascinated by the Monarch Butterfly, you will be once you visit an overwintering site and see them all bunched together in the tree, it’s absolutely amazing.
If you would like the actual site locations please leave a message below with your email and I can send you the list of sites and their locations.
4. What is the Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle?
- The Female Butterfly comes out of the Chrysalis and looks for a Male to mate with.
- The butterfly lays her eggs (and can lay up to 250 eggs per day) on Milkweed (Swan Plants).
- Eggs hatch on milkweed, then eat, and eat, and eat and eat until they are full-grown caterpillars.
- The caterpillar turns into a Chrysalis.
- The cycle keeps going.
5. What do they eat?
Adult monarchs feed on nectar and water by sipping on it using a sucking tube they have called the proboscis (it lies coiled under the head when not in use)
Monarch caterpillars can only eat Milkweed (Swan Plants in New Zealand). At the very late stages of being a caterpillar, you can feed them pumpkin and cucumber, but if feed too early it can cause deformities in the butterflies.
Monarch butterflies store a poison called Cardiac Glycosides they get from the Milkweed. They store it away when they are in the larva stage (caterpillar stage), it provides them with a poisonous defense against its predators.
6. Why are they important?
Not only are they beautiful and majestic creatures, that can put a smile on anyone’s face, they are also (like the Honey Bee) Pollinators. So they are vital to our Trees and Plants. Helping to pollinate and grow trees provides us with Oxygen. They are also a food source to those that can stomach them and their toxins.
7. Can I keep them inside?
Yes, you can. Having Monarchs is a fantastic learning process for children at home, daycare or school.
There certainly are ways to do this, however, keeping them inside has been known to affect the way they develop, so it is not my advice to keep all butterflies inside, but for a school project this would be fine.
We also take them inside in crysalis stage at the end of the season, this is also ok to do.
8. What does it mean when you see a Monarch
There’s a belief that a Monarch Butterfly represents, transformation and re-birth (new life or opportunity) – so I guess when you see one, have a think, there may be some changes coming your way.
For me, I have had three occasions where I have seen one on my way to a job interview, and thought to myself, ‘I’m going to get this job’, and I have. For me, they are pretty special.
9. How do they find the right flowers to eat from?
Monarch Butterflies use their sense of, smell and vision to check out their environment. They use their eyes to find flowers and they use their antennas to smell the nectar! They can see a broad spectrum of colours, they can even see UV light (we humans can’t !). Read more on Planting for Bees (and monarchs).
10. What can we do to save the Monarch Butterfly?
- You can stop using Pesticides in your garden and encourage others to do the same.
- Plant lots of Milkweed or Swan Plants.
- Plant Wildflowers everywhere! Ask your council if you can throw some seeds on the grass verges in your town. You could approach your local schools, daycares, and business and encourage them to plant wildflowers. It could also be a community project.
- A great example is of the Mexican authorities, In 1986, converted 62 square miles of forests in the Sierra Madres to the now renowned Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, home to hundreds of millions of Monarch butterflies during winter. The government further extended the reserve area to an area of 217 acres in the year 2000.
- Join the fight against Climate Change
I have been part of the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust for the last three years, and one of the things we do is tag and release butterflies so we can get research on their over-wintering behaviours and sites. They also have lots of great information on their site.
I also have 30 swan plants in my garden and more popping up. I plant butterfly-attracting plants and have sugar syrup available for them as well in a Butterfly Feeder. I’m very vigilant all year with pest control (APHIDS are terrible).
Well, I hope you have enjoyed these 10 facts about Monarch Butterflies. I do encourage you to take part in saving these beautiful butterflies from extinction. They are currently classed as ‘under threat’.
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