The Monarch Butterfly All about the Monarch butterfly. By Gina Grant.
Life Cycle The monarch butterfly has 4 stages to its life cycle. It starts it’s life as an egg, then turns into a caterpillar, before becoming a pupa and finally transforming into a butterfly. Lets learn more about each stage of its life cycle…
Stage 1… The Egg.Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on theunderside of swan plants. They are about thesize of a pin head and it takes the eggs 4 to 5days to hatch into caterpillars.
Stage 2… The caterpillar (or larvae.)When the caterpillar hatches it is very small, but over thenext 10 to 15 days it eats and eats the swan plant, so thatit gets nice and plump in preparation for the next stage inits life-cycle -turning into a pupa.The caterpillar will shed its outer skin 4 to 5 times as itgrows.
This caterpillar has formed a ‘J’ shape…Why do you think?
Stage 3… The pupaThe caterpillar will find a place to attach itself so that it can start theprocess of metamorphosis. It will attach itself to a stem or a leafusing silk and transform into a pupa.Caterpillars will then spin a silk cocoon around themselves to enterthe pupa stage.All insects go through a series of changes as they mature -calledmetamorphosis. This unlike mammals, where the young are born as‘miniature’ adults.
Stage 3… The pupaAlthough, from the outside, the 10 days of the pupa phaseseems to be a time when nothing is happening, it is really atime of rapid change. Within the pupa the old body parts ofthe caterpillar are undergoing a remarkable transformation,called metamorphosis, to become the beautiful parts thatmake up the butterfly that will emerge.
Stage 4… The ButterflyWhen the butterfly hatches from its pupa, it hangs upsidedown to dry its wings and make them strong.Once the wings are dry it will fly away and feed on flowernectar with its straw like mouth.
Starting the life-cycle again The adult monarch butterfly has a short life which is only about two to six weeks long. The monarch butterfly will die after laying eggs to restart the life-cycle again.
Marvelous Monarch Facts… Did you know that the swan plant is actually toxic, so when the caterpillars eat them they are less likely to be eaten by their predators (ants, praying mantis, birds and wasps) as the predators themselves will become sick if they do! -What a great tactic to try and avoid being eaten!
Marvelous Monarch Facts… You can tell the difference between a male and a female monarch butterfly by its markings. The male has two small black scent sacks and thinner wing veins as compared to a female.
Marvelous Monarch Facts… Although monarch butterflies in America migrate thousands of kilometers each winter, here is New Zealand it has been found that they usually don’t fly more than 20 kilometers. Below is a picture of a cluster of monarch butterflies on a tree in California.
Marvelous Monarch Facts… Originally from America, the monarch butterfly has spread both naturally and by human intervention throughout the Pacific, Australia, parts of Southeast Asia, and to islands in the Atlantic. It is not known how monarchs first arrived in New Zealand but they have been here since at least the mid 1870s.
Marvelous Monarch Facts… Monarch butterflies can fly at a speed of 10-45 kilometers per hour! Monarch caterpillars can lay up to 500 eggs at a time! Monarch caterpillars eat the swan plant leaves, whilst the butterflies drink flower nectar through their straw like mouths!