A Few Words About The Monarch
The monarch is a large orange butterfly that flies with its wings held in a “v” shape. The wings have prominent dark veins and two rows of white spots at the edges, and the body is dark. The wingspread ranges from 7 to 10 centimetres (about 3 to 4 inches). Males have two black spots in the centre of their hind wings, which females lack. These spots are scent glands that help males attract female mates. Females have thicker wing veins than males. The butterfly’s body is black with white markings. They are so beautiful they are considered the ‘king’ of butterflies, hence the name monarch. These creatures are ambassadors of nature in people’s gardens and symbols of summertime outdoors.
Like many other butterfly species, monarchs are in decline, so we should give them a helping hand by planting swan plants for the caterpillars to eat and bright nectar-filled flowers for the adults, to help keep the monarchs of our gardens alive. Monarchs are not pests and will not eat anything but Milkweed. They do not hurt crops, ornamental trees or in any way upset the balance of Nature in areas they are introduced.
The population of monarchs have been adversely affected over the last two decades particularly due to loss of habitat, pesticides and global climatic change. Temperature influences the butterflies’ hibernation period. The butterflies need to overwinter in forests where the temperature is reasonably low so that their metabolism is not too demanding, but not so low that they freeze. Therefore, higher temperatures and erratic freezing events due to climate change threaten the butterflies’ ability to survive hibernation.
The monarch butterfly has one of the best-known life cycles in the insect world.
Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants such as the swan plant (Gomphocarpus fruiticosa). The eggs are dome-shaped and ridged and a female can lay several hundred, after which she dies. It takes about five days for the eggs to hatch.
Monarch caterpillars are striped with yellow, black, and white bands, and reach lengths of two inches (five centimetres) before metamorphosis. The monarch chrysalis, where the caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis into the winged adult butterfly, is a beautiful jade green with tiny gold spots along its edge.
The monarch butterfly is in decline. You can welcome monarchs into your garden by planting their larval food – milkweed species such as swan plants and bright nectar-filled flowers for the adults, to help keep the monarchs of our gardens alive and enjoy watching their amazing journey through metamorphosis.