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Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are insects that are fascinating not only because of their attractive appearances, but also because of their far-flung annual migration habits -- think journeys of thousands of miles. Male and female monarch butterflies are both intensely colorful creatures, although they can often easily be distinguished by mere quick glances.
Monarch Butterfly Background
Monarch butterflies are prevalent all throughout North America. Many of them travel to more pleasant weather conditions during the coldest times of the year, whether to Mexico, California or even South America. Some monarch butterflies in milder geographical locations -- like Texas and Florida -- never migrate. Color wise, monarch butterflies are reddish-orange. This dazzling coloration functions as a handy "back off" sign to predators, as these butterflies are actually poisonous. Monarch butterflies are herbivorous, and their food intake consists of nectar. As youngsters, they eat milkweed, which is the reason why they're poisonous -- their bodies are full of "stashed away" cardenolides, which are plant compounds.
The primary difference that exists between male and female monarch butterflies involves conspicuous blots on both of the males' hindwings, specifically the interior parts. These blots, which are situated over the veins, are noticeably absent in individuals of the fairer sex. These blots are composed of scales, and are actually scent glands.
If you observe the sides of monarch butterflies' stomachs, you also might notice another key difference in the sexes. The sides of the males' stomachs branch out, unlike those of the females.
The wings of male and female monarch butterflies also aren't exactly the same. The veins on the females' wings are notably broader than the ones that adorn the males' wings.
Male monarch butterflies are also just a tad larger than the females. Monarch butterflies in general are practically light as air any way you slice it -- they typically weigh no more than a slight .026 of an ounce.
If you ever observe the wooing activities of monarch butterflies prior to mating, you might notice that the males attempt to attract the females as they are flying. They start the whole process out by prodding against the females. They then seize them and begin mating with them on terra firma. The breeding season for monarch butterflies takes place in the spring each year.
- World Wildlife Fund: Monarch Butterfly
- NatureWorks: Monarch Butterfly
- National Geographic: Monarch Butterfly
- Great Plains Nature Center: Monarch Butterfly
- U.S. Forest Service: Monarch Butterfly FAQs
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: Monarch Butterfly Fact Sheet
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Danaus plexippus
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images