Monarch Butterfly Facts – You Will Find Most of These Amazing!
Monarch Butterfly Facts
- 1 Monarch Butterfly Facts
- 2 There Are Different Species Across the World
- 3 The Origin of Their Name is Unclear
- 4 Monarchs Lay Many Eggs in a Day
- 5 A Monarch Caterpillar Sheds (and Eats) Its Skin Several Times
- 6 The Monarch Caterpillar is a Gluttonous Eater
- 7 The Monarch Caterpillar forms a “J” Shape Chrysalis
- 8 Monarch Butterflies are Easily Distinguishable
- 9 Monarchs Store Poison in Their Bodies
- 10 Monarch Butterflies Warn Predators with Color
- 11 Adult Monarchs Feed on Nectar
- 12 Monarch Butterflies Smell with Their Antennae
- 13 Monarchs Embark on Annual Migrations
- 14 Monarchs Complete Four Lifecycles in a Single Year
- 15 Monarch Butterflies Can Cross the Atlantic
- 16 Monarchs Make the Most of Warm Air for Migration
- 17 Monarch Butterflies Have Amazing Sense of Direction
- 18 You Can Raise Monarch Butterflies Over the Winter
- 19 Monarch Butterflies Can Fly Higher than Many Birds
- 20 Monarch Butterfly Facts – Summary
- 21 Interesting facts about monarch butterfly
- 22 Butterfly Life Cycle Worksheet
- 23 The Life Cycle of a Butterfly
- 24 Filmmaker
Monarch butterflies are certainly a beauty to behold! They are widely regarded among the most beautiful insects not only in North America but anywhere in the world. You will find many things about them amazing. We have put together interesting Monarch butterfly facts, some of which will surely astonish you. Read on!
There Are Different Species Across the World
Monarch butterflies are tropical insects – that is, they thrive in a tropical climate. You can not only see them in North America, but also in the Caribbean, South America, Europe, and Australia. In North America, their distribution extends from Canada’s south to the north of South America.
But the species of the butterfly often differ between regions. For example, that which you will find in North America differs from that in South America. But you can find both of these two species in the Caribbean.
The color patterns of these butterflies may also differ, depending on their location.
The Origin of Their Name is Unclear
There are different theories as to how these flying insects came to be called Monarch butterflies. The first use of the term «Monarch» is, however, credited to Samuel H. Scudder.
Some say the name was chosen because these made the largest species of butterflies. Another account has it that early Dutch and English settlers in North America were so impressed by the orange color that they so named it for King William III, Prince of Orange.
Apart from Monarch butterflies, these beautiful insects are known by a variety of names in different places. They are called wanderer butterflies in Australia. Some people also call them milkweed butterflies.
Monarchs Lay Many Eggs in a Day
These butterflies are very prolific when it comes to egg laying. They lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves of the milkweed plant at a rate of one at a time. Doing this, they can lay up to 250 in a day! That’s quite prolific, I’d say.
And if that’s not impressive enough, this surely will be; a Monarch in captivity reportedly laid 1179 eggs in one day!
These eggs are usually light yellow but are creamy white-when freshly laid. Each weighs about 0.50 milligrams and is slightly under 0.90 millimeters in diameter. The eggs hatch in 4-5 days.
A Monarch Caterpillar Sheds (and Eats) Its Skin Several Times
The next stage in the development of a Monarch butterfly after the laying of eggs is the emergence of the caterpillar or larva . This has a gray-black color and a black head.
The caterpillar molts or sheds its skin about five times prior to the pupa stage. The phase between two molting periods is called instar.
One of the most particularly interesting Monarch butterfly facts is that the caterpillar may consume the skin that it sheds in 4 of its 5 molts!
The Monarch Caterpillar is a Gluttonous Eater
The caterpillar of a Monarch butterfly is a ravenous eater. A large one can devour a whole milkweed leaf in under four minutes! The butterflies eat both the leaves and flowers of the milkweed plant.
As a result of their voracious eating habit, these insects grow very fast. This explains the regularity of their skin shedding as well. They gain around 2,700 times their original weight and produce a lot of frass – the name for their poo.
The Monarch Caterpillar forms a “J” Shape Chrysalis
Before shedding its skin for the last time during the fifth instar, the Monarch caterpillar spins a silk to hang from. It hangs upside down in a “J” shape for a duration of around 10-12 hours while changes take place inside its body.
It then proceeds to shed its skin for the last time. A split appears near the head and the skin begins to “unzip,” revealing the pupa or chrysalis. The caterpillar continues to twist and turn until the skin falls off.
The pupa wriggles for a while– the so-called pupa dance. Then, slowly, its skin starts to harden to provide protection for the butterfly that is being formed on the inside. The fully developed Monarch emerges from the chrysalis after a number of days.
Monarch Butterflies are Easily Distinguishable
Another of the interesting Monarch butterfly facts is that you can easily tell them apart from other butterflies merely by looking at their wing patterns. The orange and black colors on the wings are instantly recognizable.
It is also easy to determine the gender of a particular Monarch by observing their wing patterns. The male has a dark spot at the center of each of its hind wings. The ones with darker veins on their wings are females.
Monarchs Store Poison in Their Bodies
The Monarch butterflies are only good to behold. They are bad for the stomach of any animal. This is because they carry a considerable amount of a poisonous substance inside them that can make a predator sick.
The milkweed plant that Monarch caterpillars feed on contains toxins known as cardiac glycosides. These chemicals, also known as cardenolides, do not do any harm to the developing butterfly and are stored in its tissues. But they taste bad and are poisonous to vertebrates. The poison can even slow a human’s heartbeat.
Although only caterpillars feed on milkweed, the toxins remain in the body of the butterflies for the entirety of their lifespan. This serves as a strong deterrence to predators.
Monarch Butterflies Warn Predators with Color
Looking at the colors of the wings of Monarchs, you will certainly find them attractive. But, to these insects, this is not necessarily about beauty. The bright orange of the wing is a warning signal.
The color is the butterfly’s own way of telling would-be predators, such as lizards and birds, that something unpleasant awaits if they dare to consume it. The poison of the milkweed will give them an upset stomach or worse.
Some naive predators might still go ahead and eat Monarch butterflies, but the experience of what follows will make them pay more attention to the warning color next time if they survived.
Adult Monarchs Feed on Nectar
Monarch butterflies don’t actually feed on milkweed; only the caterpillars do. Nectar is the main source of food and energy for the adults. They get this from different species of flowers. They can also eat fruit.
Monarch Butterflies Smell with Their Antennae
These butterflies perceive odors using their antennae! One of the interesting Monarch butterfly facts is that they communicate not only with colors, but also with scents.
The antennae help a female Monarch to perceive the chemical that a male releases from its rear wing glands for attraction to enable mating. They are also useful for finding the way.
When a Monarch butterfly locates a flower with its large, compound eyes, it uses the antennae to smell out the nectar. It then makes use of small receptors in its feet called “tarsi” to taste the nectar.
Monarchs Embark on Annual Migrations
Monarch butterflies are well known for their long, yearly migrations. In North America, they migrate in large numbers southward from Canada to Mexico. These migrations often start in August and the return journey begins in spring.
But not all Monarchs winter in Mexico. Most of those found west of the Rocky Mountains move to areas in central or southern California. It is estimated that around 5 million of these butterflies travel to smaller sites spread out along the coast of the U.S. state.
Monarchs Complete Four Lifecycles in a Single Year
There can be four generations of Monarch butterflies in a single year. And each of this will complete all four stages of the lifecycle – that is, the egg, caterpillar, chrysalis/pupa, and adult butterfly stages.
The lifespan of the butterflies varies. Some live for only a few days and others for months. Most generations live between 15 and 50 days before dying off.
The longest living generation is usually that born in late summer or early fall. This group of Monarchs migrates from Mexico to California in search of a warmer climate. They can live for up to eight months.
Migration back to the north begins by the end of March. No single individual butterfly makes the entire round trip.
Monarch Butterflies Can Cross the Atlantic
One of the interesting Monarch butterfly facts is that they are believed to be capable of trans-Atlantic crossing. Not many other insects can attempt such a long journey.
They can fly up to 3,000 miles to central Mexico from the Northeastern U.S. in search of a warmer climate. It has been observed that they travel more than 250 miles in a day! Monarchs reportedly can fly a distance of nearly 5,000 miles a year.
These butterflies are the only ones that make two-way migrations, just like birds.
Monarchs Make the Most of Warm Air for Migration
Now, you may be wondering where Monarch butterflies get the energy to fly for such long distances, looking at how tiny and frail they appear. They imitate the behavior of migrating birds.
The butterflies make the most of updrafts of warm air known as thermals. With the help of these thermals, they can glide as they continue with their migration. This enables them to conserve energy for use later in the journey.
Monarch Butterflies Have Amazing Sense of Direction
Monarch butterflies have continued to awe researchers with their remarkable sense of direction and location. Some have attributed this to some sort of programming or instinct.
Young butterflies that have never been to the original breeding grounds of their parents have been observed to return to the very habitat their parents lived in before they were born. Isn’t that amazing?
Some people think that Monarchs rely on the position of the sun and the earth’s magnetic field for their migrations.
You Can Raise Monarch Butterflies Over the Winter
Monarchs don’t have to migrate. They simply can’t survive the cold weather. You can continue observing Monarch butterflies and keeping them healthy with the help of butterfly growing kits . You can even get a school kit for larger groups.
These butterfly habitats are reusable, so you can observe the Monarch lifecycle any time you want to. Simply keep the habitat in an area above 55 degrees Fahrenheit and make sure to supply them with enough milkweed, fresh flowers, and fruit to feed on.
Monarch Butterflies Can Fly Higher than Many Birds
Who could have thought that a Monarch butterfly would be able to fly higher than birds? You probably didn’t, but it can.
These butterflies can ascend up to a height of 10,000 feet or more. A Monarch has reportedly been seen at a height of 11,000 feet (more than two miles) up in the air!
Most birds do not fly higher than around 500 feet. During their migrations, songbirds hardly fly higher than 4,000 feet.
Monarch Butterfly Facts – Summary
It is most likely that you are just learning about some of these Monarch butterfly facts for the first time. As you can see, fascinating things about these butterflies go beyond their distinctive orange and black wings. But this list is by no means exhaustive. There are even more interesting facts about these beauties you might still come across.
Before we wrap this up, let’s briefly go over these amazing Monarch butterfly facts again.
- There are different species of Monarch butterflies – the type in North America is not the same as that in South America.
- There are conflicting theories on the origin of the “Monarch” name, with the most credible appearing to be that the butterflies were named after the Prince of Orange.
- Monarchs can lay hundreds of eggs in a day.
- Their caterpillars shed their skin five times while growing rapidly, and eat four of their five molts!
- Monarch butterflies are avid eaters and do produce large amounts of frass (poo) as a result.
- Prior to the emergence of the pupa and then the fully developed butterfly, the caterpillar spins a silk and hangs upside down to form a «J» shape.
- You can easily distinguish Monarchs from other butterflies and males from females from the distinctive patterns and colors on their wings.
- There is a poisonous substance in the body of a Monarch butterfly, serving as a deterrent to predators.
- The bright orange in the wings is a warning color to predators.
- Adults feed on nectar, unlike caterpillars that survive on milkweed.
- Monarch butterflies smell nectar in flowers using the antennae and taste it with receptors in their feet.
- They have a reputation of embarking on long annual migrations southward starting in August and making the return trip in March.
- In a year, about four generations of Monarchs complete a full life cycle, from egg to adult.
- Monarch butterflies are among few insects capable of trans-Atlantic crossings and are the only butterflies that make two-way migrations.
- They leverage updrafts of warm air to conserve energy for their long migrations.
- Monarchs have an amazing and mysterious sense of direction, with the young able to find their way back to ancestral breeding grounds they have never been to.
- You can overwinter Monarchs in a butterfly habitat.
- These butterflies can fly up to 10,000 feet or more up in the air, much higher than most birds do.
Interesting facts about monarch butterfly
The monarch butterflies are large, beautifully colored butterflies that are easy to recognize by their striking orange, black, and white markings.
Monarchs live in North, Central, and South America as well as Australia, some Pacific Islands, Western Europe, and India.
Monarch will lay their eggs on the underside of leaves.
They will lay their eggs only on the milkweed plant.
Eggs will hatch into larva in about four days.
Monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed leaves.
The milkweed that monarch caterpillars eat is poisonous. The poison stays in their bodies so that animals will not eat them.
The monarch’s caterpillar does not have bones. Instead it has over 1,000 muscles helping the caterpillar crawl wherever it needs to go.
In order for the monarch to grow it must shead it’s skin.
The caterpillar stage is two weeks long.
The caterpillar hangs upside down and forms a silk cocoon from it’s old skin.
When the skin fall off, the larva becomes a pupa. The monarch butterfly has no eyes and no antennae. It has no legs, and it cannot move. All of the major changes in body size, shape, and
arrangement happen. In monarchs, this stage can last as long as a week. At the end of this stage, an adult butterfly will emerge from the chrysalis.
When the butterfly comes out of it’s cocoon it hangs upside down to dry it’s wings and make them strong.
The monarch can fly then.
Monarch butterfly eat flower nectar trough their new straw like mouth.
The monarch butterflies has tiny receptors on their feet that they taste with.
The Monarch’s wingspan ranges from 8.9–10.2 cm (3½–4 in.).
The uppersides of the wings are tawny orange, the veins and margins are black, and there are two series of small white spots in the margins. Monarch forewings also have a few orange spots near their tips. Wing undersides are similar, but the tips of forewings and hindwings are yellow brown instead of tawny orange and the white spots are larger. The shape and color of the wings change at the beginning of the migration and appear redder and more elongated than later migrants.
Male monarch butterflies have a black spot on a vein on each hind wing. Females have no spots on this vein.
Monarch butterflies are known for the incredible mass migration that brings millions of them to California and Mexico each winter. North American monarchs are the only butterflies that make such a massive journey— up to 5,000 km (3,100 mile).
Monarch’s can travel between 80-160 km (50-100 miles) a day; it can take up to two months to complete their journey to winter habitats.
Monarch flight has been described as “slow and sailing”. Monarch flight speed has been estimated by a number of researchers. One scientist examined all prior estimates and concluded their flight speed is approximately 9 km/h (5.5 mph).
Monarch’s are one of the few insects capable of making trans-Atlantic crossings.
Butterfly Life Cycle Worksheet
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The Life Cycle of a Butterfly
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Materials and preparation
- «Butterfly, Butterfly!» by Harry Kindergarten Music
- Pictures of real eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, and butterflies
- From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman
- Busy Butterflies by Gail Tuchman
- Class set of Life Cycle of a Butterfly worksheet
- Class set of Draw the Life Cycle of a Butterfly worksheet
- Class set of the Color the Life Cycle: Butterfly worksheet
- key detail
- Students will be able to identify the main topic of a text.
- Students will be able to retell key details of a text.
- Students will be able to identify the sequence of a butterfly’s life cycle.
- Draw a KWL chart on the board.
- Ask students what they already know about the life cycle of a butterfly. Fill in the «K» column.
- Ask students what they would like to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly and fill in the «W» column.
- Play the «Butterfly, Butterfly!» song.
- Pick out key words from the song, such as butterfly, caterpillar, chrysalis, and egg. Include a picture and a simple definition for each word.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher modeling
- Show pictures of real eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, and butterflies to your students.
- Ask students to identify each.
- Read one of the following informational texts: Busy Butterflies or From Caterpillar to Butterfly.
- Pause throughout the read aloud to check for understanding about the concepts in the book.
- Model a think aloud that shows students how to make connections between the book and what you know about the topic of butterflies from your own life. For example, say, «One key detail I find interesting is that a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. A key detail is something the author tells us that connects with the topic of the text. which is the life cycle of a butterfly. I find this key detail interesting because I’ve seen a caterpillar before, and a butterfly, but I’ve never seen the caterpillar change to a butterfly! This also reminds me of one of my favorite books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.»
- Encourage students to think about their own connections to the text, using key details from the text to support their ideas.
- Ask student volunteers share their connections/ideas with the class.
- Model to the class how to retell important details from the book. Discuss with the class what information is really important to remember, and what other details are not needed in this lesson.
- Jot down a few key details from the text (using words/phrases/illustrations) on the whiteboard and a few facts or ideas from the text that are not important to the main topic of the text.
- Have students think-pair-share which words/phrases/illustrations are key details and which are not. Encourage students to justify their reasoning, using their knowledge of key details to support their answers.
Independent working time
- Pass out the Life Cycle of a Butterfly worksheet and have students complete it independently.
- Instruct students to jot down the main topic on the back of their worksheet (e.g. the life cycle of a butterfly) and 2-3 key details (e.g. A butterfly starts as an egg or Caterpillars become butterflies.)
Enrichment: Give students the Draw the Life Cycle of a Butterfly worksheet to complete during independent working time.
Support: Give students the Color the Life Cycle: Butterfly worksheet to complete during independent working time.
Leading up to the Oscars on Feb. 24, we will be highlighting the nominated films that have appeared in the magazine or on the Website in the last year. Scott Macaulay interviewed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly director Julian Schnabel for the Fall ’07 issue. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is nominated for Best Director (Julian Schnabel), Adapted Screenplay (Ronald Harwood), Editing (Juliette Welfling) and Best Cinematography (Janusz Kaminski).
Most films draw us in with some promise of possibility. Buy a ticket, sit back and have your world expanded for a couple of hours. Be someone new and go places you’ll probably never see in your own life.
But there’s another sort of movie that derives its drama from the opposite journey. Movies as diverse as Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot and Gary Tarn’s recent doc Black Sun place the audience within a world that’s drastically — and painfully — smaller than their own. Through the strength of their storytelling, these films both dramatize their protagonists’ quests to conquer the challenges of their new worlds while confronting viewers with the existential questions posed by their dilemmas. Julian Schnabel’s third feature, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, is a challenging, sagacious and unexpectedly sensuous addition to this genre. Adapted from the best-selling memoir, the film tells the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, an editor at French Elle, who is one day stricken with locked-in syndrome. Although his mind functions perfectly, he is paralyzed except for the ability to move one eye. In a harrowing tour de force reel of filmmaking, Schnabel shoots the beginning of the film almost entirely from Bauby’s viewpoint, forcing us into the most extreme identification with his character.
As the film progresses, however, it opens up. The details of this world — the color of the columns in the hospital hallway, the hue of the linoleum on the floor — seduce us. Bauby develops relationships with a series of spectacular nurses who not only teach him to communicate but also enable him to write the book the film is based on. By the film’s end, we are living comfortably within Bauby’s world, like him no longer scared, and a simple change of season provides all the excitement and sense of accomplishment we need.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which is Schnabel’s third film dealing with death and an artist, won him the Best Director award at Cannes this year (and will be released by Miramax in November). It caps a typically busy year for him that included not only his art direction of the newly reopened Gramercy Hotel in New York City but also his live theatrical staging of Lou Reed’s Berlin album in New York, Sydney and Los Angeles. In Toronto, he not only screened The Diving Bell and the Butterfly but also his film Berlin, which should also see a release sometime in the next year.
Filmmaker: I read somewhere that you dubbed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly a “treatise about dying.” As an artist making a movie about another artist confronting mortality, how did your own feelings about, and perhaps fears of death and dying, affect your approach?
Schnabel: Well fortunately or unfortunately, I think coming to grips with [the process of dying] is part of what it is to be alive. It takes up a good part of being alive, in fact. So I don’t really separate his experience from mine — or yours — and that’s probably what’s good about the movie. But I guess the notion of transgressing death by making art probably had something to do with the making of this movie too.
Filmmaker: You had a certain distance because it was someone else’s story?
Schnabel: I’ve never been able to separate intellect from feeling. People who can do that — I don’t trust them. Fred Hughes, who used to work for Andy Warhol, had MS and got progressively worse over the years. We were friends and when he was lying in his house and couldn’t speak anymore, I used to read to him. His nurse, Darin McCormick, gave me this book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, as a gift. One year my kids were out of school for Christmas, and we were going to Mexico. My father, who died on January 17, 2004, [was sick] and I couldn’t bring him with us. I thought of who could take care of him [when I was away] and Darin McCormick came to mind. He came to my studio one day in December, and it was the same day that the script of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly arrived. So I wasn’t analytical at all about it. [Making the movie] had very much to do with me trying to deal with my father’s death. The movie is really a self-help device.
Filmmaker: When you say “the script arrived,” what do you mean? Had you been developing it, or was it something offered to you by a producer?
Schnabel: They had asked Johnny Depp if he wanted to play this role and he wanted me to direct the movie so the script was sent to me. [That script] was written by Ron Harwood, and then I worked on it. Like I said, I had had the book for some years, but I didn’t plan on making the movie. I did think about making a movie about Fred, who I knew pretty well. I thought, here he is lying in this bed, and I know all the things that he did and what an active life he had. The idea of this person being still and the audience knowing what is going on in his head — that’s a structure I like. I had written a script for the book Perfume: The Story of a Murderer that was similar in a way because the main character had a sense of smell that was extraordinary. He could travel through his olfactory senses in the same way that Jean-Dominique Bauby could travel with his imagination and his memory. So I applied some of the [devices] I used in the script for Perfume to the script that I received that day from [producer] Kathy Kennedy.
Filmmaker: How much did you change it?
Schnabel: I made it into French — it was written in English. I couldn’t see having English and American people making believe they have French accents speaking in English and then watching a French audience watch the movie in English reading French subtitles. I also thought it was very important to go to France and be at the hospital where this [story] took place, where Jean-Do actually was. The author wrote it based on the book, but I went there and met his best friends and talked to them and found out a lot of things that made me change things or made things make more sense to me. For example when his wife says to him, “Do you want to see your kids?” and he says, “No” — in the script he originally says “Yes,” but the fact of the matter is that he didn’t want to see his kids. Anne-Marie Perrier, who was his best friend, picked him up in an ambulance one day and took him to see another man with locked-in syndrome who lived at home with his family. The two of them sat facing each other and then at the end of the day he was taken back to the hospital. After seeing how another man who had locked-in syndrome could still be a father, I think he realized that he was still a father. Even a shadow of a father is still a father, and I think he came to understand that later.
Filmmaker: How much of the characters of the nurses are like those real people? To some degree, the film almost has a quality like Fellini’s 8½ with this artist meditating all of these beautiful and interesting women.
Schnabel: The first lady you see is his real nurse, and his physiotherapist, this guy Daniel, the one who is holding him in the swimming pool — he was his nurses’ aide. All the medical details are probably about 95 percent accurate. We had people [in the film] doing what they really did with Jean-Do — they were the actual people who worked with him. [But referring to the principal nurses and the