Monarch Butterfly

8 minutes to read | Updated for 2018

Monarch Butterfly

The monarch butterfly is the king of the insect world. Even though they are small creatures, they do phenomenal things. First they develop from tiny eggs, then become a caterpillar, form a chrysalis, and finally transform into a beautiful butterfly.

Monarchs migrate great distances to overwinter in a temperate climate.

Amazingly enough, not one butterfly makes the entire round-trip journey. Winter butterflies are sluggish and do not reproduce. In spring, they return to summer homes and breed along the way. Their offspring return to the starting point.

Danaus plexippus is the scientific name for the monarch butterfly. Related species in the family are found on all continents except the polar regions, wherever milkweed and related plants are found. It also provides an intriguing form of protection, since the milkweed juices it assimilates make it poisonous to predatory birds. Its beautiful orange color serves to teach predators that their intended meal might be toxic. As not all milkweeds produce cardiac glycosides, not all monarch butterflies are poisonous. However, the warning orange hue serves to disguise poisonous from the non-toxic monarch.

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