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Life-cycle of the Monarch Butterfly
Text & Images Edward Loewenton 2006  All rights reserved 
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The Adult Monarch 
     Adults live 2 to 6 weeks, except for the generation that migrates from the north in late August and early September to Mexico; those adults that survive the journey live until the following spring, at which time they awake from hibernation, mate, and then die. 
     Adults are sexually mature at hatching; their primary task is to mate and produce offspring. Adults feed on nectar from any available flowers. A captive Monarch will also eat dilute honey from a paper towel.  
     The summer's last generation of  monarchs, the ones that will migrate to Mexico,  are not sexually mature at hatching, even though they look just like normal adults. Exposed to shorter days and cooler nights, the developing larvae and pupae  undergo some alteration in their growth that prevents sexual maturation in the adult. When the butterflies are exposed to the lengthening days and warmer temperatures of the Mexican Spring, their reproductive organs begin to mature.

The adult butterfly that emerged in the sequence 
on Pages 3 & 4 resting on a flower before its first flight.
Some butterflies rest for many hours before flying;
this one was ready in less than an hour.


An adult Monarch rests in the sunlight just after emerging from the chrysalis at right.
Two spots on the the lower wings and narrower veins indicate that it is a male.

Larger Image

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Images and/or text from this article may not be reproduced in any manner in whole or in part to produce a salable product in any form, real or electronic. Copies for personal, educational or journalistic purposes must include proper attribution: Page URL and the copyright legend:
2006 Edward Loewenton.