The monarch butterfly is famous for its yearly migration from North America and Canada to warmer parts of California and Mexico. Millions of monarchs fly south to escape the cold weather conditions each year. Their journey takes about two months.
The butterflies fly as far south as central Mexico during winter. They stay there until March or April when they begin their journey back north to the United States and Canada.
Monarchs depend on milkweed plants for laying eggs and as food for their larvae (caterpillars). However, milkweed is becoming an increasingly rare plant in some places due to farming and other human activities. This is making it harder for monarchs to reproduce during their long trip south and back north again each year.
Why are monarch butterflies special?
The Monarch butterfly is special because it helps make our planet healthy by feeding on nectar while pollinating many types of wildflowers. It is also the only butterfly that migrates north and south as the seasons change.
Butterflies, in general, are important pollinators for plants, but the Monarch butterfly is specifically important because it is a very visible species. This means that people notice when they migrate through their communities or when they visit their gardens to feed on flowers.
The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable and well-known butterflies on the planet. As well as being a symbol for Mexico, the monarch butterfly is a national treasure to the United States. Monarchs are famous for their large size, orange and black wings, and for their long annual migration.
Monarch butterfly fun facts
- They have wings that beat slow motion.
- Caterpillars in the United States cover about 3,000 miles every year in their hunt for sustenance.
- There are 5 USA States where it’s the State Insect. Caterpillars eat their shed skins.
- The vivid colors of monarch butterflies are a warning to predators that they are poisonous.
- Their wingspan ranges from 9 – 11 cm (4 inches) and their average weight is about half a gram.
- After about two weeks, Monarch caterpillars gorge themselves on leaves and grow to 4 times their normal size.
- One of the things that the Monarch butterfly can sense with its feet and head.
- They are poisonous to predators.
Are monarch butterflies harmful to humans?
No. The monarch butterfly is poisonous to animals that would usually prey on it. These animals include frogs, grasshoppers, lizards, mice, and birds. But they are not harmful to humans at all.
The monarch butterfly is able to retain the poison produced by the milkweed plant it eats as a caterpillar, thus making it poisonous to other animals like birds in its adult stage. When a bird eats a monarch, its digestive system is unable to break down the toxins in the monarch’s body.
The bird then suffers from vomiting and diarrhea from the poison. This is a great defense mechanism for the monarch because birds are its worst predators and may otherwise be able to eat large quantities of monarchs without being affected by their toxin since birds can’t taste its bitterness.
In contrast to birds and other animals that eat butterflies, the human digestive system contains acid that easily breaks down the toxins in butterflies, so humans don’t suffer any adverse effects when eating them.
Why are monarch butterflies important to humans?
Monarchs are important to the ecosystem because they help keep balance in nature. As consumers, they have unique importance because they are one of the few insects that eat milkweed plants, which are poisonous to most animals. Because their bodies store the poison, predators avoid eating them.
They also serve as pollinators as they feed on nectar from flowers, helping to spread seeds and aid in reproduction.
The monarch butterfly has long been recognized as an iconic species of North America. Their unique appearance and presumed importance in pollinating milkweeds has led to a certain level of cultural significance, but like most things, the reality is a bit more complicated than the simplified narrative surrounding them.
That said, it’s hard to dispute the power and beauty held by this species—a fact that makes them a fascinating contender for anyone looking to incorporate more nature into their life.