The Texas State Insect: Monarch Butterfly

The Monarch Butterfly is the State Insect of Texas and is easily recognized by its orange, black and white color.   Unlike the average butterfly which has the life span of about two weeks, the Monarch can live about a month in the summer producing four generations during that time.  The fourth generation is the oldest generation in the Monarch  life cycle living up to 6 months  and is sometimes referred to as the super butterfly.   In September, the fourth generation Monarchs living east of the Rocky Mountains will migrate from Canada to its winter home in central Mexico, traveling 2,200 to 3,000 miles depending on its starting point, where it sleeps for the winter.  The fourth generation Monarchs living west of the Rockies will migrate to southern California for the winter.  In the spring when they awaken, the Monarchs will leave Mexico to journey north and the first of the four generation cycle begins.

The Monarchs from east of the Rockies first stop: Texas

First Siting

The super Monarch seeks out milkweed which is the host plant for the Monarch butterfly.  There are more than 20 varieties of milkweed to choose from, one being Red Milkweed, more accurately called Asclepias Curassavica, which grows 3-4’ tall and blooms in the spring through the fall.

There are FOUR STAGES in the butterfly life cycle and milkweed is where STAGE ONE begins: the egg laying stage.

Laying Eggs on a Milkweed plant

Within about a week the egg develops into STAGE TWO, a caterpillar.

Baby caterpillars galore

The caterpillar eats milkweed leaves at lightening speed and develops quickly, provided they are not picked off by a pesky predator like the anoles (green or brown lizards), snakes or frogs.

butterflies 004

They are growing fast!

Fat and Plump

Nice and Plump!

Almost ready for journey ..

Almost ready for journey ..

After about 10 -15 days the caterpillar will venture off to find a place to enter into STAGE THREE, the chrysalis stage.

IMG_0989

The chrysalis

The chrysalis develops into a butterfly, STAGE FOUR, in about 10 – 15 days.

The first generation of the Monarch butterfly is born in March/April, the second generation in May/June, and the third generation in July/August.  The fourth generation, which is the super generation, is born in September/October.

The story of the Monarch butterfly is fascinating and one which continues to intrigue even the noviced butterfly watcher, such as myself.  I developed a love and wonder for the Monarch after witnessing the four stages of the life cycle in my backyard.

In March, 2013, Erin Mulvaney wrote an article in the Houston Chronicle which got my attention titled, “Drought conditions contribute to decline in monarch population.” http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Drought-conditions-contribute-to-decline-in-4355009.php   She reported there was a 59% decline in the butterfly population, as recorded from their winter refuge in Mexico this year.  Part of the problem is the drought conditions experienced in Texas and Mexico.  To help preserve the Texas State Insect, consider planting Milkweed in your garden this year and keep the cycle going.

To read more about the Monarch Butterfly visit:

http://sciencenordic.com/butterflies-fly-3500-km-compass

http://www.lsjunction.com/insect.htm

http://www.monarchbutterflyusa.com/Cycle.htm

http://jacksonville.com/entertainment/home-and-garden/2010-07-09/story/gardening-protecting-monarch-caterpillars-all

Flight of the Butterfly downloaded from: youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03soGDi4gSg

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Texas State Insect: Monarch Butterfly

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