Birth of a Monarch

Monarch butterflies are absolutely remarkable because of their metamorphosis, multigenerational migration, exclusive feeding habits and spectacular beauty. It’s just remarkable that the apparently whimsical flights of these delicate creatures can actually be consistent with a tough, resilient and ancient species.

Here in Florida our Monarchs belong to the Central/Eastern flyway group. The other is in the west coast; California. In the wild you can look for the adult form as they flutter-by from garden flower to garden flower. They are looking for their favorite food. They eat only milkweed plants. If you pay particular attention to the plants you will see an entirely different aspect of their lives. Look for milkweed plants of which there are two species here in Florida. If you look at the leaves you may see two features. The easiest to spot are the denuded branches and partially eaten leaves. These are signs of the activity of the insects. In the wild the survival rate is low. I would guess it is in the range of 20%. One of the survival risks may depend upon the complexity of the metamorphosis of the insect. There are four distinct stages in the life form of the Monarch. These include egg which lasts a few days, caterpillar which lasts about two weeks, pupa or chrysalis which lasts about 10 days and butterfly which is good to go for about 6 weeks. You can actually see each of these stages as they transpire.

Caterpillar color matches Milk Weed
Caterpillar fattening up on milk weed
Gross anatomy of catapillar
“J” form and new chrysalis

Unfolding wings; fly tomorrow

Be sure to see our blogs on Photomicroscopy

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