This Queen’s no Monarch

Queen butterly on garden lavender

Queen butterly on garden lavender

Queen caterpillar

Queen caterpillar

For a couple of years now I’ve been planting milkweed in hopes of attracting monarch butterflies. Just after Christmas I spotted several black, white and yellow striped caterpillars on my Arizona milkweed (Asclepias augustifolia) out back. I was so excited! Down on my belly I watched the caterpillars creep along the reedy branches and inch across the rocks below. When I posted pictures of my discovery on the SW Monarch Study Facebook page a quick response came from Gail Morris. This knowledgeable expert politely pointed out that my caterpillars were not monarchs after all, but their cousins, the more modest and sedentary queens. The queen caterpillar’s black, white and yellow stripes wrap the larvae in a slightly different pattern. Gail also pointed out that the queen caterpillar has three sets of filaments, where the monarch has two. Both members of the Danaus butterfly family share milkweed as a host plant during their caterpillar stage. Toxins in the milkweed make monarchs poisonous to predators, while the jury’s still out on the toxicity of queen butterflies.
Just a few days after I first spotted them, my caterpillars disappeared. I’ve been looking for the chrysalises. Apparently a caterpillar can travel up to 30 feet before settling down to form a chrysalis, stage three out of four in the butterfly life cycle. The chrysalises are tiny bundles that hang suspended by threadlike cremasters. Some enthusiasts bring monarch chrysalises from their yards inside to keep them safe until metamorphis begins. The pupae are returned to the outdoors when they begin to change color.
Emerging from the chrysalis magically transformed, the adult butterfly pumps fluid into its crumpled wings and waits for them to dry. No longer earthbound, the butterfly is then free to flit from one blooming plant to another feasting on nectar. Queen males focus on finding females who they seduce by rubbing their unique hairpencil appendages on the antennae of the female. This releases pheromones especially designed to entice the lady. Mating takes place, and the female lays her eggs one at a time, usually on milkweed plants.
Vivid orange adults now flutter around the garden in that graceful flight unique to butterflies. I don’t know if these are the caterpillars I saw, already in their new winged forms. These adults are feeding on the sweet nectar of English lavender, fueling up for breeding season. Did you know that the wings of all butterflies are covered with tiny overlapping scales, each a solid color? Such a miraculous insect!

Advertisements

12 responses to “This Queen’s no Monarch

  1. I’ve learn a few excellent stuff here. Certainly price bookmarking for revisiting.
    I wonder how much attempt you put to make any such magnificent
    informative web site.

  2. Admiring the time and effort you put into your website and in depth
    information you present. It’s great to come across a
    blog every once in a while that isn’t the same outdated rehashed information. Fantastic read!

    I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  3. With havin so much written content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright
    infringement? My website has a lot of completely unique content I’ve
    either created myself or outsourced but it looks like a
    lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my authorization. Do you know any ways to help stop
    content from being ripped off? I’d truly appreciate it.

  4. Greetings from California! I’m bored at work so I decided to check out your blog on my iphone during
    lunch break. I really like the information you provide here and can’t wait to
    take a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how fast your blog loaded on my phone ..
    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways,
    superb site!

  5. Howdy! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with
    us so I came to give it a look. I’m definitely loving
    the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers!
    Terrific blog and amazing design.

  6. Carnosine can be found naturally in foods and in human cells.

  7. Good site you have got here.. It’s difficult to find high quality writing like yours nowadays.
    I really appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

  8. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It will always be helpful to read articles from other authors and practice something from other
    web sites.

  9. I’ll immediately grab your rss feed as I can’t to find your email subscription link or e-newsletter service.
    Do you’ve any? Kindly permit me know in order that I could subscribe.
    Thanks.

  10. DAN JOAN PETERSON

    Very interesting!

    Date: Fri, 17 Jan 2014 01:38:57 +0000 To: danjoan545@msn.com

  11. Wow! What a great, informative blog….it pains me to read of their vulnerabilities, and I wonder how they ever survive. But survive they do! Their migration awes me, their beauty awes me, their delicateness terrifies me. Thanks for this wonderful writing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s