Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Monarch Butterfly Couple


The Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is a milkweed butterfly (subfamily Danainae) in the family Nymphalidae. It is perhaps the best known of all North American butterflies. Since the 19th century, it has been found in New Zealand, and in Australia since 1871, where it is called the wanderer. It is resident in the Canary Islands, the Azores, and Madeira, and is found as an occasional migrant in Western Europe and a rare migrant in the United Kingdom. Its wings feature an easily recognizable orange and black pattern, with a wingspan of 8.9–10.2 cm (3½–4 in). (The viceroy butterfly is similar in color and pattern, but is markedly smaller, and has an extra black stripe across the hind wing.) Female monarchs have darker veins on their wings, and the males have a spot called the androconium in the center of each hind wing. Males are also slightly larger than female monarchs.

The monarch is famous for its southward late summer/autumn migration from the United States and southern Canada to Mexico and coastal California, and northward return in spring, which occurs over the lifespans of three to four generations of the butterfly. The migration route was fully determined by Canadian entomologists Fred and Norah Urquhart after a 38-year search, aided by naturalists Kenneth C. Brugger and Catalina Trail who solved the final piece of the puzzle by identifying the butterflies' overwintering sites in Mexico. The discovery has been called the "entomological discovery of the 20th century". An IMAX film, Flight of the Butterflies, tells the story of the long search by the Urquharts, Brugger and Trail to unlock the secret of the butterflies' migration.