These butterflies are a marvel. Amazingly, they are migratory! They overwinter in Mexico and southern California, and in February start to migrate north. They breed and lay eggs in the southern USA. The progeny from those individuals fly farther north and the process is repeated , with monarchs coming as far north as southern Canada. In August, they turn around and head south. The generation that overwinters lives up to seven months, while the others live only 2-3 months. This is explained much more clearly in Wikipedia at this site. Please click on the images to see the details.
|Monarch Butterfly nectaring on purple coneflower|
|Aesclepias spp., especially this A. tuberosa, have toxins that the Monarchs accumulate in their tissues.|
|Most butterfly predators are sensitive to the toxins and have learned to avoid these brightly colored butterflies and their equally brightly colored caterpillars.|
|With a close up look here you can see stripes and even the hint of a caterpillar face at the tip of the egg.|
|and bigger (double click to see it REALLY BIG!).|
We specifically planted the butterfly weed to support these butterflies. It has been such a great pleasure to see and photograph the monarchs at the northern extent of their range. Butterfly weed has been included in many wildflower projects in these parts of the US, so on this end of the migration, things are pretty good. Unfortunately, on the southern end where they overwinter, deforestation is putting monarch butterflies at risk. It thrills my soul each year to see the monarchs arrive and further the species for at least another year; and this year has been a banner year indeed.