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Facts About the Migration of the Ulysses Butterfly

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Butterflies are among the most beautiful and delicate creatures on earth, and they serve an essential purpose that supports all life on earth: pollinating plants in their environments. Ulysses butterflies, with their magnificent blue coloring, can be found on every continent but Antarctica. Tropical areas are their most common habitats, but they migrate seasonally to find warmth and food sources.

Ulysses Migration

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The Ulysses butterfly (Papilio ulysses) is also known as the blue mountain butterfly or the blue mountain swallowtail. This gorgeous butterfly can be seen on the emblem for Queensland tourism. The Ulysses butterfly migrates like several other species, including the well-known monarch and the common buckeye, the red admiral, the clouded skipper and the painted lady. The reasons for migration vary somewhat, but seasonal weather changes are the primary one. Butterflies are cold-blooded; they cannot adjust to cold weather.

Food for Thought

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You can find butterflies basking in the sunshine during the day -- they love the heat from the sun. Butterflies migrate toward the equator when winter hits their home regions, and they venture back in late spring. But heat is not their only reason from migration; they also need to travel to find a food source. Butterflies eat nectar from flowers, and they pollinate as they go. The Ulysses butterfly's food of choice is the blossom of the Euodia tree, which is native to Australia. It produces pink flowers protruding from its branches.

From Forest to Suburbs

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Ulysses butterflies lay eggs on the leaves of Euodia trees; eventually, caterpillars emerge. A species of caterpillars typically has limited food prefereces, so the foliage of Euodia trees is essential for the survival of this species. The butterflies have adapted to life in the suburbs. As private gardens have moved to including many tropical plants and flowers, Ulyssess butterflies have taken to the land of minivans, carpools and beautiful pink flowers.

The Species' Future

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The life span of the Ulysses butterfly is very short, rarely exceeding 8 months, and the butterfly is a protected animal in Australia. A license is needed to keep and breed them. The survival of the Ulysses butterfly is linked to the survival of Euodia trees, which are considered threatened in their natural habitat -- conservation efforts are critical for the survival of both. The migration patterns of the butterflies relate to their quest to find food sources, while conservation efforts aim to save the rain forests. The sight of Ulysses butterflies in flight is unforgettable. Their intense blue wings glisten in the sunlight and can be seen for hundreds of yards.