Nature Photo of the Month – Monarch Butterfly…Almost

Our photo of the month this September is quite revealing! Take a close look and you’ll see one of nature’s wonders — it’ll be a transformative experience.
Beatrice Laporte, this month’s photographer from Merrickville Ontario, says:

I found this Monarch butterfly chrysalis on a Witch Hazel bush in Charleston Lake Provincial Park [near Lansdowne Ontario] in August 2008. We can actually see the wings of the Monarch butterfly developing inside the chrysalis, soon to emerge from its resting stage between the larva and adult stage, undergoing a complete metamorphosis, just in time for the long flight south.

The monarch butterfly is also known as the “milkweed butterfly” because milkweed is the only plant monarch larvae can eat. The female butterfly lays about 400 little yellow eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. Once the larvae or caterpillars hatch they begin an eating frenzy, consuming the plant’s leaves, flowers and sometimes seed pods. The larvae have yellow, black and off-white rings. The insect completes all of its growing in this stage, which takes nine to 14 days under normal summer temperatures.

Once grown the larvae attach themselves to a handy twig. Hanging upside down by their tail they shed their outer skin and transform into a pupa or chrysalis in a matter of hours. The pupa resembles a waxy, jade-coloured vase adorned with golden spots. After about two weeks the adult butterfly emerges and takes a couple of hours to dry its wings before taking its first flight. The adult male monarch is bright orange with a black pheromone scent patch in the middle of the hind wing. The female is dull orange or brown with more noticeable scaled black veins. Adults subsist largely on nectar produced from fall wildflowers.

In Canada there are two distinct populations of monarchs: a large, widely distributed eastern population found east of the Rockies, and a second smaller western population found only in central British Columbia. The breeding range in Canada closely reflects the distribution of milkweed species.