15 Interesting Facts About Monarch Butterflies

  1. The Monarch butterfly, also known as the milkweed butterfly, is the most-studied butterfly species. It is named after King William III of England. 
  2. Monarch butterflies are native to the Americas. These insects have spread to other places where milkweed grows, including Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and Portugal.
  3. Monarch butterflies in North America are the only insects in the world that migrate for around 3,000 miles twice a year. Millions of monarch butterflies travel from the Rocky Mountains to the Oyamel fir forest in central Mexico during the fall. The return trip starts in March. More than one generation of monarch butterflies completes this trip. (Source)
  4. Monarch butterflies were used for the first time on ISS (International Space Station) for experimental purposes in 2009. The breeding and growth process of these butterflies proved successful during this experiment. (Source)
  5. It is easy to differentiate male monarchs from females through dots on their hind wings. The shape of abdomen in male and female is also different.
  6. Monarch butterflies have true color vision. They can distinguish between various colors based on wavelength, irrespective of their intensity. These butterflies can also discriminate between polarized and UV lights. (Source)
  7. The monarch butterfly and viceroy butterfly look identical in the adult stage. However, the viceroy butterfly is smaller and has distinctive black lines across its hind wings.
  8. The main food source of monarch butterfly caterpillars is milkweed, a toxic plant. They have no food competition as other animals avoid this plant due to its toxicity. This food makes the caterpillar poisonous, and the adult butterfly retains this toxin. A bird can become sick after eating a monarch butterfly. Therefore, most birds avoid eating these butterflies. (Source)
  9. The food of monarch butterflies changes after adulthood. Adult monarch butterflies feed on the nectar of many plants.
  10. Monarch butterflies are one of few insects that can tolerate the consumption of milkweed and similar plants. They can do so thanks to the unique functionality of sodium pumps in their bodies. (Source
    Flowers and sap of common milkweed
    Monarchs are one of few insects that eat milkweed

  11. However, this toxicity doesn’t provide comprehensive protection to monarch butterflies. It has several predators that feed on eggs, caterpillars, and adult butterflies. Common monarch butterfly predators are wasps, spiders, ants, a few birds, assassin bugs, lizards, mice, toads, etc. These animals have developed immunity against the monarch’s toxicity.
  12. The monarch butterfly is the state insect in 7 U.S. states, including Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia.
  13. The population of monarch butterflies has reduced markedly in the last few years. The 2018 count shows that the number of west-coast monarchs and eastern monarchs has dropped by 86% and 15% in a year. The main risks for monarch butterflies are climate change (increasing CO2 and higher temperatures) and parasites. (Source)
  14. A single female monarch butterfly lays 100 to 300 eggs, one each on milkweed leaves, during her life. Their eggs hatch after four days. The size of the larvae after hatching an egg is less than 1 cm. It can grow up to 5 cm during this stage.  
  15. The pupa develops into an adult monarch butterfly in just five days. The lifespan of monarch butterflies is generally between 2 and 6 weeks. However, their last generation of the year can live for 8 to 9 months.

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