Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch Butterfly

Photograph by Carol Muth

The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is an insect in the Brush-footed Butterfly (Nymphalidae) family. It was considered a member of the Milkweed Butterflies (Danaidae) family until recently. The Milkweed Butterflies are now considered a subfamily or "tribe" of the Brush-footed Butterfly family. The The Monarch Butterfly is possibly the most known butterfly. They are relatively large with a wingspan of  3½ inches (8.9 centimeters) to 4 inches (10.2 centimeters). The upper sides of the wings are orange to orange-brown with black veins and margins. Two rows of white or light orange spots are on the black margins. The undersides of the wings are similar but the orange color is duller. The head and body is black with white spots.

A female Monarch will lay up to four batches of eggs in one summer wherever there are milkweed plants. The caterpillar has black, white and yellow bands. It feeds on milkweed, flower buds and the milky sap of poisonous plants. The adults sip nectar. The caterpillar and adult are poisonous to some would be predators.

Monarch butterflies take flight from late spring to the fall. In late autumn they migrate to the south, mostly to Mexico, but some west of the Rocky Mountains will migrate as far as Hawaii and Australia. This migration exceeds the lifespan of a typical Monarch butterfly, which is from two weeks to nine months, but they reproduce during the migration. Surviving butterflies return north in the spring

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