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Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

monarch butterfly

Description: Adults are nearly 4 inches wide. Wings are orange with black veins and black margins dotted with white. The caterpillar is banded with yellow, black and white stripes. The chrysalis is blue-green with a band of black and gold.

 

Range: Throughout the U.S.

 

Habitat: Anywhere that there is nectar, but will only breed when the larval food source, milkweed, is nearby.

 

Food: Larva only feed on milkweed. Adults drink nectar from a variety of flowering plants.

 

Reproduction: There are four distinct life stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult. During the summer breeding season, adults live for 2-5 weeks – up to four generations each summer – each one traveling a little further north than the last.

 

The last generation of the year migrates to Mexico (southern California if on the west coast) and does not mate until February or March, when they begin to migrate north again. It takes several generations for monarchs to reach New England again.

 

Ecosystem Role: Important pollinators. Monarchs are toxic to most wildlife, but some mice and birds have developed immunity and will prey on adults and larvae. Spiders, ants, mites and wasps prey on the eggs.

 

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