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The Monarch Butterfly
Transcript of The Monarch Butterfly
A Migratory Champion
Have you ever wondered...
What is a Monarch Butterfly?
Where does it live?
What does it eat?
Why does it migrate?
Is it endangered?
Well, your questions will soon be answered.
Monarch Butterflies have a black body and a set of antennae. Their wings are mostly bright orange with black veins running throughout. The outer edge has a thick black border with white spots. The bottom side of their wings is a drab orange-brown colour. There is a way to distinguish a male from a female. Males have a black spot at the center of each hind wing while females do not. A females' veins are also thicker than a males'. Monarch Butterflies have a wingspan of about 3 1/2 to 4 inches. Most Monarch's don't live for more than a few weeks. The exception is the last generation of each year that has to stay over winter and make the journey back to Mexico. They can live for six to eight months.
Monarch butterflies don't live in the same type of habitat all year round. There habitat changes depending on the season. In the spring, summer and early fall, they can be found wherever there are milkweed plants. The majority of them live east of the Rocky Mountains. They can't survive freezing temperatures, so the over-winter in the cool, high mountains of central Mexico and the woodlands in central and southern California. In early spring they are first seen in Texas and the south of USA. In summer they are seen in Canada and more of the states. They live in forests and on mountains. This is where Monarch Butterflies live.
Monarch's eat milkweed plants and sometimes swan plants. In their larval stage monarch caterpillars feed almost exclusively on milkweed and as adults get their nutrients from the nectar of flowers. The monarch will always return to areas rich in milkweed to lay their eggs upon the plant. The milkweed they feed on as a caterpillar is actually a poisonous toxin and is stored in their bodies. This is what makes the monarch butterfly taste so terrible to predators.
How could we as humans harm Monarch Butterflies you say? Well the answer is simple.
Are they Endangered?
Monarch butterflies are classified as near threatened. Some monarchs are threatened by a reduction in their hibernation grounds in Mexican forests, as this land is often used for tourism. Additionally, the amount of pesticides used in the American midwest is threatening the population of milkweed, which impacts the monarch’s population as well. Finally, climate change is disrupting their migration route by changing weather patterns.
Why do they Migrate?
Monarchs migrate for reproductive and seasonal reasons.They can not withstand freezing weather in the northern and central continental climates in the winter. Also, the milkweed plants do not grow in their winter overwintering sites, so the spring generation must fly back north to places where the plants are plentiful. Monarch Butterflies are not able to survive the cold winters of most of the United States so they migrate south and west each autumn to escape the cold weather. The Monarch migration usually starts in about October of each year, but can start earlier if the weather turns cold sooner than that.
Where do they migrate?
The monarch butterflies will spend their winter hibernation in Mexico and some parts of Southern California where it is warm all year long. If the monarch lives in the Eastern states, usually east of the Rocky Mountains, it will migrate to Mexico and hibernate in fir trees. If the monarch butterfly lives west of the Rocky Mountains, then it will hibernate in and around Pacific Grove, California in eucalyptus trees. Monarch butterflies use the very same trees each and every year when they migrate, which seems odd because they aren’t the same butterflies that were there last year. These are the new fourth generation of monarch butterflies, so how do they know which trees are the right ones to hibernate in? Monarch butterflies are the only insect that migrates to a warmer climate that is 2,500 miles away each year.
How does Human Movement and Interaction Affect Monarch Butterflies?
The amount of pesticides used in the American Midwest is threatening the population of milkweed, which impacts the monarch’s population as well. Finally, climate change is disrupting their migration route by changing weather patterns. It is predicted that one of the many effects of climate change will be wetter and colder winters. If they are dry, monarchs can survive below freezing temperatures, but if they get wet and the temperature drops they will freeze to death. Monarch butterflies cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 86 degrees. They will sit in the sun or "shiver" their wings to warm up.