Monarch (Pickering, 2014)

The Monarch is one of the most well-known butterflies in North America and maybe even the world. The bright colours of their delicate wings are commonly seen on all sorts of wildflowers but mainly milkweed. These butterflies reside along roadsides, float in open fields and concentrate near riversides where the larval foodplant milkweed, is abundant. The adult female monarch will lay her eggs usually on the bottom of milkweed leaves to avoid detection from birds.

Monarch Butterflies rarely ever actually make the round-trip from the high up Mexican mountains to Southern Canada and back down to Central America. It usually takes four generations for the monarchs to make their migration. The young of the monarchs that overwintered in Mexico take flight and head north in late spring laying eggs where they stop. The second and third generations keep reproducing at their stops until the offspring reach Southern Canada. Only monarchs born in late summer join the fourth generation flying back down south to Mexico. Although they don’t make the full trip by themselves, one individual may still fly up to 8000 km in one year!

This tip will help you to identify the gender of the monarch you are observing on a milkweed flower in your own backyard. Male monarchs are actually easy to identify from the females because they have a scent gland (black dot) on the hindwing near the abdomen.  If you want to really impress your friends the Latin name is Danaus plexippus.

A commonly confused species with the Monarch butterfly is the Viceroy. This butterfly only has a couple slight differences including the size and pattern on the hindwing. The Viceroy is smaller than the Monarch and also has a rounded black line across the hindwing.

– J. Pickering (2014)

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