Wild Birds Unlimited – Omaha, NE

July 29, 2016

Marvelous Monarchs

Filed under: Butterfly,Monarch — wbuomaha @ 8:38 am
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Web Monarch

On velvet wings of black and orange, a Monarch silently flutters by. Just looking at this delicate creature, it’s hard to imagine the amazing metamorphosis and the perilous annual migration which are necessary for preservation of the species.

Like other butterflies, the life cycle (or metamorphosis) of the Monarch involves four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Adult females usually lay single eggs on the bottom side of a milkweed leaf, near the top of the plant. In two to five weeks of egg-laying, Monarchs lay an average of 700 eggs. Eggs hatch about four days after they are laid.

The black, yellow, and white larva, or caterpillar, feeds on the milkweed plant. In addition to its six actual legs, the larva usually has five pairs of false legs, each with a tiny hook to hold the larva on the leaf. Although it has six pairs of eyes, its vision is poor. In two to three weeks, the caterpillar spins a silk pad, usually on the underside of the leaf. The larva then splits its exoskeleton and the pupa attaches to the pad.

The pupa, or chrysalis, dries to a jade green with a gold crown. It will transform into an adult in five to fifteen days, with the exterior becoming transparent about twenty-four hours before the butterfly emerges.

Adult Monarchs normally live two to six weeks in summer. However, migrating Monarchs undergo a chemical change that delays their maturity and allows them to live all winter – six to nine months. It is believed that a combination of temperature and hours of daily light trigger migration.

Scientists consider the Continental Divide too high for butterflies to fly over, so they divide migrating Monarchs into two groups, Eastern and Western. Western Monarchs migrate to southern California and Mexico, while Eastern Monarchs migrate to central Mexico, generally flying over land. Some may winter in the southern tip of Florida or along the southern Gulf Coast of Texas, but some entomologists don’t consider these to be truly migrating as they continue the normal life cycle.

Monarchs migrating to Mexico over winter in the Oyamel fir forests. Cool-but not freezing-temperatures cause the butterflies to hibernate. They hibernate, one on top of another, in large layer-like cluster. This provides the cold-blooded insects with some safety from freezing temperatures – those on the outside might die, but those on the inside are protected. As spring warms the Northern Hemisphere, the survivors begin their journey northward.

Next time a Monarch butterfly floats effortlessly by on a gentle breeze, enjoy its beauty an

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May 29, 2013

Create A Garden For The Butterflies

Filed under: Butterfly,Gardening — wbuomaha @ 4:53 pm
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Web Monarch
Gardening for butterflies is a good way to encourage them to visit your yard. To attract them, simply think like a butterfly. As a butterfly, your main concern would be access to the basic habitat components of food, water, and shelter.
Host and nectar plants are essential for butterfly survival. Host plants (plants that eggs are laid upon and later eaten by the caterpillar) appear to be the most important habitat component. Host plants are species-specific and include trees, bushes and many native plants and wildflowers.
Black Swallowtails use Queen Anne’s Lace and herbs such as parsley, fennel, and dill as host plants. Painted Ladies prefer thistle, mallow, or hollyhock.
Monarch Caterpiller
Many host plants also provide nectar. For example, Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants, the larva (or caterpillars) eat the leaves, and adult butterflies use the flowers as a source of nectar.
Nectar, which provides a source of food for the adults, is also important. Butterflies will feed from a variety of flowering plants. They will also feed from nectar feeders filled with a sugar/water
solution of 1 part sugar to 18 parts water. Rotting fruit placed on top of a feeder is very appealing to them. Bananas, pears, and other juicy fruits are favorites. For best results, place your feeder near nectar and host plants.
Water is an essential habitat element. A very shallow pool or a mud puddle will provide a water source attractive to butterflies. Even a moist log will bring a water component to your butterfly garden.
Shelter is another important habitat component. If you look closely, you can often see butterflies roosting in trees, hanging beneath plant leaves and twigs, or even hiding in a garage or shed for shelter from the sun, wind, and other elements. Some species will use a butterfly house placed near nectar and host plants as a source of shelter.
Web Painted Lady

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