10 Cool things about the monarch African butterfly

1. HISTORICALLY SPEAKING

The monarch is believed to be the first butterfly ever to be documented. Ancient Egyptians drew pictures of butterflies on tombs as far back as 3,500 years ago and these images resemble the monarch.

2. AFRICA AND ASIA

The African monarch butterfly, also called the plain tiger butterfly has an extensive range from the African continent to southern Europe and parts of Asia, including Sri Lanka, India and China. It is a very common butterfly. Photo: Boonchuay Promjiam

3. TASTING WITH THEIR FEET

All butterflies, monarchs included, taste with their feet. They have taste receptors on their feet which help them to identify their host plant. The butterfly will ‘stomp’ on the leaves to release plant juices and then she’ll ‘test’ them to make sure it’s the right plant on which to the lay her eggs

4. PRETTY AS A PICTURE

The monarch is a medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan of about 8cm. Male and females have different patterning on their wings, with the males being smaller but more vividly coloured than females. The monarch has a black body, orange-brown fore- and hindwings and underwings of a lighter orange shade. The forewing has a black and white band on the outer edge that makes the monarch easy to identify. Black and white spots also appear on the hindwings. Butterflies have four legs. Photo: Matee Nuserm

5. SUPPER SIPPY STRAW

The butterfly, whose diet is liquid only, must slurp up his food using his proboscis, a long, curled-up tube that forms the butterfly’s mouth. While nectar, a liquid high in sugar, makes up the butterfly’s diet, he also needs minerals for reproduction. A butterfly sits on the edge of a puddle and sips the water. Scientists call this behaviour ‘puddling’.

6. LIFECYCLE (STAGE ONE)

After mating, the monarch butterfly lays her eggs on a leaf of the host plant, usually on the underside of the leaves. Eggs are white in colour, bullet-shaped and very tiny

7. LIFECYCLE (STAGE TWO)

The tiny caterpillars hatch after about four days and are plain white. Their very first meal is their egg casing. They then start feasting on milkweed leaves – and moult and grow… and moult and grow… for about a fortnight. The mature caterpillar develops beautiful coloured patterns as he sheds his old skin and grows a new one. (Above): AS Floro

8. LIFECYCLE (STAGE 3)

Once fully grown, and beautifully coloured, the caterpillar attaches himself to a stem or leaf and starts to form a green casing around himself. This is called a chrysalis and when complete, measures about 2cm in length. Magic happens inside the chrysalis – a process called metamorphosis – where nature breaks down the caterpillar’s body and transforms it into a pupa. Photo: Cathy Keifer

9. LIFECYCLE (STAGE 4)

After about 10 to 12 days inside the chrysalis, the monarch butterfly emerges. The butterfly will hang upside down for a while to allow his heart to pump blood into the veins in the wings. The wings then flatten into shape, dry and harden and the butterfly flies away. Within two to six weeks the process will start again as the new butterfly lays eggs on another host plant. Photo (Above): Matee Nuserm

10. MUNCHING MILKWEED

Monarchs lay their eggs on plants in the milkweed species of plants and monarch caterpillars feast on the plant. Eating milkweed makes the monarch caterpillar poisonous as the plants contain a high level of toxins. Predators leave the colourful monarch caterpillar alone – they don’t like their yucky taste! Although the poison isn’t fatal to humans, we don’t suggest you eat a monarch caterpillarl

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