Insects > Monarch Butterflies > Monarch Life Span

Life Span of Monarch Butterflies- Named After Danaus, Mythical King of Egypt and Son of Zeus

Probably, the most recognized butterflies of North America are the Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). These milkweed varieties of butterflies come from the family of Danainae, a subfamily of Nymphalidae. People have seen this species in Australia and New Zealand since 1871, where they call it "the wanderer." It inhabits the Azores, Canary Islands and Madeira. Occasionally you can sight them in Western Europe and rarely in the United Kingdom. You can easily identify these beautiful butterflies by their wings with black and orange pattern, and a wingspan of 3½–4 in or 8.9–10.2 cm. Males are a bit bigger than female monarchs are and have a spot known as the androconium in the middle of each rear wing. Wings of females boast of darker veins.

Migration

The monarch butterfly migration takes place typically from the US during late summer or autumn in southern Canada, coastal California and Mexico, and comes back to the northern region during spring. This happens during the lifespan of 3-4 generations of this butterfly. Americas are home to this species of butterflies that one can distinguish easily by their black and bright orange wings. They can fly thousands of kilometers, migrating to as far as Canada in the north during winters and as far as Mexico City in the south. Monarchs are amazing migrants, as they always know the right direction for migrating without having ever undertaken the flight earlier. They seem to have a built-in compass that directs them to the correct course every fall and spring. The organized migration of these butterflies is among the most wonderful natural events in the world of insects.

History of the Name

Most likely, the word Danus resulted from Danaus, fabled king of Libya or Egypt and a great-grandson of Zeus who founded Argos. Plexippus was among the 50 sons of Aegyptus, the twin brother of Danaus. Hence the name Danaus Plexippus

Habitat

Monarch butterflies have different habitations during cold and warm months. They cannot live in icy temperatures. From spring and summer until early fall, you can find them anywhere you find milkweed in abundance. Since they lay their eggs on top of milkweed, they are always on the lookout for these weeds in fields, parks and meadows

Anatomy

This species of butterflies is dazzling orange with white and black marks. Its body is black and the head has a set of antennae. Most often, they have orange wings that have black streaks running all over, while the outer edge of its wings has a thick border in black color. The wings contain white spots. The wings in orange-brown color are dull underneath. Males show a black mark in the middle of each rear wing, but females do not.

Diet

Like other butterflies, monarchs too keep changing their diet as they grow up. During its caterpillar stage, a monarch survives on milkweed plants only. On attaining adulthood, it derives its nourishment from wide-ranging flowers, plus milkweed.

• The life span of monarch butterflies undergoes a life cycle of four 4 stages including four generations.

• The Egg

• The Caterpillar or the larvae

• The Chrysalis or the Pupa

• The Fully Developed Butterfly

In fact, four individual butterflies constitute the four generations that go through the said four phases in the span of one year, and then they start the process afresh starting with the first stage and first generation. It is like one generation; merging with the next while, the migration process keeps going.

Communication

Monarch butterflies use colors and scents for communicating. The males draw females to mate by discharging chemicals from odor glands contained in their rear wings.

The Life Span of the Monarch Butterflies


Stage 1

During the months of February and March, the torpid monarch butterflies in the closing generation, come out of their hibernating state to search and find a mate. After this, they search for the ideal place for laying their eggs, by traveling to the east and the north. This initiates first stage and simultaneously, the New Year Generation for the monarch.


Stage II

• During March-April, you can see them laying their eggs on the milkweed plants, and in nearly four days, the hatching caterpillars or the larvae appear.

• Then the only job of the larvae is to eat and grow up.

• The caterpillar attains full adulthood in nearly a fortnight and unearths the right place for attachment to begin the course of transformation. It will connect itself to a twig or a leaf by silk and change over to a chrysalis.

• In about 10 days, you can see the larvae entering the Chrysalis stage. During this time, on looking from the outside, nothing seems to happen, but inside the chrysalis, the previous body elements of the caterpillar are going through an amazing conversion, called metamorphosis, to develop into stunning parts that go to make the emerging butterfly.

• The monarch, when it comes out from the pupa as a beautiful butterfly, will commence its journey to feed on flowers, simply enjoying its short life of just about 2-6 weeks. Unfortunately, this initial generation of monarch butterfly then dies after having laid eggs for the second generation.


Stage III

During May-June, you can see the second generation of butterflies appearing, while the third generation completes a life cycle similar to the 1st generation, and dies in 15 to 50 days of becoming a stunning adult monarch butterfly

Stage IV

Butterfly Life Cycle

The 4th generation of this species of butterflies is slightly different from the earlier three generations. Taking birth in September –October, this generation precisely goes through the same progressions as the three others, but for one difference. The life of 4th generation goes beyond two to six weeks. Monarch butterflies belonging to 4th generation travel to the warmer Californian climates and Mexico and live for 180-240 days (six to eight months) until it is about time to begin the entire process once more. It is remarkable to note how monarch butterflies of four generations work out in a way that their population survives through the years without causing any ecological issue. They start developing to mate during February-March, the next spring, before laying their eggs. Thin and frayed during their hibernation and migration, they die at last.

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