Samantha Plater of Southampton has first-hand knowledge of the
regal Monarch Butterfly.
Of five chrysalis that hang suspended from a pie plate attached to
the underside of a wooden box in Plater's backyard, this beauty
emerged Wednesday afternoon (Sept.1) and quickly attached itself to
Plater's finger. Plater had to sit and wait patiently until its
wings had dried and hardened so that it could take flight.
A chrysalis is the pupal stage of butterflies and, most chrysalides,
are attached to a surface by a velcro-like silken pad spun by the
caterpillar and a set of hooks at the tip of the pupal abdomen. Like
other types of pupae, the chrysalis stage in most butterflies is one
in which there is little movement. When the butterfly emerges from
the chrysalis after only two weeks, it will usually sit on the empty
shell in order to expand and harden its wings, but in this case, it
chose Plater's finger.
One of the favourite foods of the Monarch is milkweed, thus its
other name the 'milkweed butterfly' and, fortunately for this group,
it handily grows in the yard of Plater's neighbour. According to
science, the Monarchs that hatch after late August are those that
will migrate from Canada to Mexico.
This year, the return out of Mexico was fraught with mishap and many
of the Monarchs that attempted the migration back to Canada failed.
One of their stop-overs for sustenance is Texas where they feed on
prolific fields of milkweed. This year however, drought resulted in
little to no milkweed and the same was true as they traveled up
through the southern states. When those, that survived, arrived in
Canada, they were met with a colder, wet spring and early summer
resulting in many acquiring a fungus on their wings that also
destroyed large numbers.
Interesting facts about the Monarch Butterfly
The monarch butterfly migrates over 3,100 kilometers, without ever
having been to its destination.
The male monarch butterfly is distinguishable from females by the
black-colored scent glands on each hind wing.
The monarch butterfly is totally dependent on milkweed during its
Milkweed contains a chemical that tastes awful. Birds soon associate
the bright orange monarch butterfly with unpleasant memories. This works
just fine for the monarch, which would otherwise be defenseless.
The monarch butterfly caterpillar sheds its skin four times within
two weeks of hatching.
When the monarch butterfly caterpillar is two weeks old, it weighs
3,000 times as much as it did when it was born.
After the monarch butterfly emerges from the pupa, it must pump fluid
into its wings and wait for them to harden before it can fly.
The monarch butterfly migrates from Canada to Mexico without training
or navigational assistance. It is believed that the monarch uses the
magnetic field of the earth and the position of the sun to find the town
of Angangueo Mexico, where it spends the winter.
After laying about 400 eggs, the mother monarch abandons her young to
look after themselves.
Monarch butterflies that breed early in the summer die within a few
weeks. If a monarch butterfly does not breed before late August,
however, its reproductive maturity will be postponed and it will live
for up to nine months. It is these "late bloomers" that migrate from
Canada to Mexico.
02/09/2009 09:03 PM