Critter Corner - Monarch
DID YOU KNOW:
Monarchs migrate (relocate) each year in enormous numbers from
summer breeding grounds in Canada and the eastern United States
to California and Mexico. This amazing migration takes
several generations of monarchs to complete. Each monarch
migrates in only one direction during its lifetime.
Monarchs feast on one type of plant -- milkweed --
there are more than 2,000 varieties of milkweed. As a caterpillar, the
monarch has jaws that it uses to gorge itself on the plant when
it hatches from the egg. As a butterfly, the monarch feeds
on the flower's nectar using a hollow feeding tube, or
proboscis, which is rolled up when the insect isn't eating.
Mother monarch lays several eggs under a milkweed leaf. A
caterpillar (larval stage) emerges in a few days and begins
eating. The caterpillar sheds its skin several times
during a few weeks. Then it spins a button of silk and
the silk. The caterpillar spins another silk thread that
holds its body to the leaf. Under the caterpillar's skin
the chrysalis forms and the skin falls away. It is in the
chrysalis (pupa stage) that the butterfly forms. The
chrysalis cracks open and the butterfly emerges. The new
monarch waits for its wings to dry and harden before it can fly.
It takes about a month for a monarch to go from egg to adult
Monarchs are found in North America and around the world between
45 degrees north and 45 degrees south of the equator. They
depend on the milkweed plant for their life cycle. Only
North American populations migrate!
monarch's only form of defense is a mild toxin (poison) that
causes it to taste bad to predators. The toxin is from the
milkweed plant. The monarch's bright colors help warn
predators of the bad tasting snack.
Caterpillars don't have lungs; instead
breathe through holes on their sides called spiracles.
The bright patters on butterflies are made by thousands of
scales that cover their wings
The scales are not like those of reptiles. They are
(Photo credits: Large photo,
US Fish and Wildlife Service: Milkweed, Wisconsin Department of
Natural Resources: Caterpillar, Environment Protection Agency;
Butterfly on pink milkweed, US Fish and Wildlife Service;
Butterfly on purple milkweed, Missouri Department of