Monarch: # 4 of “23 Butterflies in 2023”

Leonard Weber

February 3, 2023

Monarch, probably the best known of all North American buterflues, is common in Eliza Howell Park. It is present from mid/late May until late September

On Purple Coneflower in July

A nectaring butterfly, it is attracted to a variety of flowers, providing good views of it, both when the wings are closed and when the wings are open.

On New England Aster in September

The Monarch is famous for its annual long-distance migration. The above butterfly, looking like a newly emerged adult on September 11 last year, was about to leave on its long, long flight to Mexico for the winter.

The individuals that leave here in the Fall do not return in the Spring. It is the next generation, having never been here before, that arrives in May.

On Red Clover in June

Monarch is also well known for its relationship to milkweed plants. It lays its eggs only on different species of milkweed; the caterpillars eat only milkweed leaves; and the chemicals derived from the plants make both the caterpillars and adult butterflies very distasteful to birds, an important protection.

Three different species of milkweed grow in Eliza Howell Park: Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, and Butterfly Weed.

Top left: on Common Milkweed: right: on Swamp Milkweed; bottom: on Butterfly Weed

The Monarch is quite large, with a wingspan of about 4 inches. Its size, its bright colors, its numbers, its 4-month-plus presence, its attraction to many different flowers all make it a butterfly easy to find on visits to the park.

On Ironweed in August
On Butterfly Weed in June

Perhaps because Monarchs are so often talked about, there can be a tendency for someone learning about butterflies to identify other orange and black butterflies as Monarchs. The next butterfly in this series is a different species that looks very much like a Monarch.

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