Monarch Butterflies are one of the most well-known species of butterfly due to their amazing and extremely long migrations, and have even been bred in space.
Monarch Butterflies are widespread throughout the globe. They can be found in both North and South America, and they can be found in much of the South Pacific including Southeastern Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines. There are even populations as far east as the Canary Islands and the Azores off the coasts of Europe and Africa.
Mating & Reproduction
A female Monarch Butterfly will pick her mate best on his level of fitness. Mating begins in flight where a male will chase a female, and then it ends on the ground. Only 30% of attempts end in copulation, so the weaker males are weeded out based on their inability to copulate. The mating ritual ends on the ground, and it usually lasts from 30 to 60 minutes.
Females will then lay their eggs on milkweed plants which are the host plants for Monarch Butterflies. Host plants are generally the main food source of any give butterfly species. The Monarchs then hatch and begin eating. They eat their egg shell and the leaves of the milkweed plant that they are born.
Monarch Butterflies undergo a number of instars (development stages) before reaching adulthood. They have four stages of metamorphosis indictive of many species of butterfly. They begin as eggs, hatch into larvae (they have five instars as larvae), form a chrysalis (cocoon) and then emerge as a butterfly.
In Costa Rica, Monarch Butterflies lay their eggs on a tropical species of milkweed which remains one of their main food sources throughout their lives. As a caterpillar, Monarchs munch the leaves along the stem of the plant. When the butterflies have undergone metamorphosis, they survive off of the nectar of the milkweeds flowers. They also find nutrients in the nectar of other flowering plants as adults.
Monarchs are one of the few animals that have made it into space. They were sent to the international space station where they were successfully bred. The name “Monarch,” may come from King William III who ruled England from 1672 to his death in 1702.
Locations in Costa Rica: Terraba Sierpe National Wetlands, Corcovado National Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Children’s Eternal Rainforest Reserve
Diet: milkweed plants
Migration Pattern: wintering in Mexico and California
Habitat: pasture land, gardens, agricultural plains
Size: length=8.9-10.2 cm weight=negligible
Species: Danaus plexippus