Wings! - Monarch Butterfly USA
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PHOTO: Lynn Rosenblatt

PHOTO: Bernadette Banville NWF.

PHOTO: Ned Rosenblatt

PHOTO: Deb Gayer. See more of her photos on her Facebook page.

The monarch’s strong wings are its trademark. The black veins in the wings form a strong framework for GLIDING like crossbars of a kite. They glide and ride on the air currents for their long-distance flight!

MONARCHS and MILKWEED are a magical connection…Two life cycles blending hand-in-hand…each with its own magical transformation of change

At cycle’s end, the milkweed pod POPS open – thousands of silky white seed puffs parachute into to air…each drifting in the wind to an unknown place…to begin new life in the spring as the seeds snuggle into the ground for a long winter’s rest.

PHOTO: Amy Moore Skursky

PHOTO:  © 2016 Deb Gayer 

monarch wings
monarch wings

PHOTO: Ekabhishek via Wikipedia.

monarch wings

PHOTO: Ron Rowan via

At cycle’s end, the monarch chrysalis POPS open…an adult butterfly pushes its way out of its crystal sleeping bag to flutter and fly high up in the sky…then glide and soar on majestic wings to an unknown place 2,500 miles away to the Oyamel fir trees of Mexico or the cypress groves and eucalyptus trees of California…snuggling together with thousands for a long winter’s rest.

PHOTO: photographer

PHOTO:  © 2016 Holli Webb Hearn

monarch wings


monarch wings
monarch wings

PHOTO: D. ROSS CAMERON//Bay Area News Group archives via Mercury News.

With this final cycle…they rest…they mate…and new life begins.


The monarch’s scientific name is s Danaus plexippus. Butterflies and moths belong to a category of insects called Lepidoptera, which means “scale wing.” It comes from the Greek word s lepidos (scale) and pteron (wing). Monarch wings are made of thousands of tiny overlapping scales, like fish scales or shingles on a roof. These powdery scales give butterflies their beautiful color and patterns.

monarch wings

PHOTO: Joshua Mayer ia

monarch wings
monarch wings

PHOTO: Via Wikipedia commons.


Can you tell the difference between a boy monarch and a girl monarch? Take a close look at their bottom wings. You will see a tiny thickening or black “dot” on the boys wings. The girls do NOT have dots…


PHOTO: Kenneth Dwain Harrelson via Wikipedia.

PHOTO: Lynn Rosenblatt


PHOTO: Piccolo Namek

Milkweed is toxic to many animals … but not the monarch. Milkweed contains cardiac glycosides toxins that are poisonous. It does NOT, however, hurt the monarch caterpillar who consumes almost 30 leaves during its growing and munching cycle. The toxins help the caterpillar and adult butterfly build an interior defense mechanism – a shield of protection – against predators. Predators in nature learn to avoid some species of plants that are very distasteful.

PHOTO: Derek Ramsey

The VICEROY – who has the same coloration as the monarch, uses this “look-alike” characteristic for protection, too.  Viceroy Butterflies look very similar to the Monarch. These lucky creatures use their orange and black coloring to trick a predator into hunting elsewhere. Predators are warned and learn how distasteful a monarch is – the Viceroy takes advantage of this feature! This is called Mullerian M​​imicry ~ the Viceroy’s defense ~ introduced in 1878 by a German naturalist named Fritz Müller.

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