The large and brilliantly-colored monarch butterfly is among the most easily recognizable of the butterfly species that call North America home. They have two sets of wings and a wingspan of three to four inches (7 to 10 centimeters). Their wings are a deep orange with black borders and veins, and white spots along the edges. The underside of the wings is pale orange. Male monarchs have two black spots in the center of their hind wings, which females lack. These spots are scent glands that help males attract female mates. Females have thicker wing veins than males. The butterflys body is black with white markings.
The monarch chrysalis, where the caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis into the winged adult butterfly, is a beautiful seafoam green with tiny yellow spots along its edge. By late summer, eastern monarchs have spread north into Canada and eastward from the central migratory corridor throughout the Northeast and Southeast states.
From September into early October, fall southern migration to Mexico begins, with the majority of monarchs following the reverse path south along the central migratory corridor. Instead of making the long journey to Mexico, western monarchs only migrate as far south as coastal areas of central and southern California. North America has several dozen native milkweed species with which monarchs coevolved and upon which they rely to complete their life cycle.
As they feed, monarch caterpillars store up the toxins in their body, making them taste bad, which in turn deters their predators. Most adult monarchs only live for a few weeks, searching for food in the form of flower nectar, for mates, and for milkweed on which to lay their eggs. The last generation that hatches in late summer delays sexual maturity and undertakes a spectacular fall migration, one of the few insects to do so.
For example, over 90 percent of the grassland ecosystems along the eastern monarchs central migratory flyway corridor have been lost, converted to intensive agriculture or urban development. In the last decade tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) , a plant not native to the United States, has become an increasingly popular way to attract monarchs in garden settings. The National Wildlife Federation also works with the agriculture community and lawmakers to protect and to increase monarch habitat and declining grassland ecosystems.
What do I do if I find a monarch caterpillar?
Once you find a caterpillar or egg, cut off the entire leaf or branch that the egg or caterpillar is on, and put it in a glass of water to keep the cutting fresh. Put the eggs or caterpillars in the ventilated container of your choice after lining with newspaper or a rubber mat (for easy clean-up).
How long does it take for a monarch caterpillar to turn into a butterfly?
In just 9 to 14 days the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is complete. Through the chrysalis, the day before the adult emerges, you can see the orange and black wings of the Monarch butterfly inside.
Is there another caterpillar that looks like a monarch?
During the caterpillar phase, however, the monarch and queen are very similar. … Soldier butterfly (Danaus eresimus) is a cousin to the monarch (Danaus plexippus). It is a darker orange than the monarch and has white spots on its wing borders.
Where do monarch caterpillars live?
Monarch butterflies are found across North America wherever suitable feeding, breeding, and overwintering habitat exists. They are broken into two populations separated by the Rocky Mountains, called the eastern and the western populations.
We stress that it is important to plant milkweed because it is the only plant that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on and that their caterpillars eat.
Monarch caterpillars have thin stripes of black, yellow and white. Black swallowtails have their stripe pattern includes dots of yellow, or sometimes orange.
Finding monarch eggs and caterpillars is an exciting experience, especially if it’s your first time! It can be a bit more difficult to find immature life stages of monarchs compared to the showy adult monarch. However, when you know what signs to look for, it can be much easier!
Monarch butterfly caterpillars are sometimes an unusual color, shade, or has unusual markings. What causes it? We wish we had all the answers. Having raised hundreds of thousands of Monarch butterflies, we have documented a few unusual caterpillars and have identified the cause of a few.