Here are some questions about the Monarch butterfly, but not all of them have an answer.

Q- How many legs does the Monarch butterfly have?
A- The Monarch is part of the Nymphalidae family. Butterflies in that family have six legs like all other insects, but the first pair is atrophied and kept close to the thorax.

Q- When Monarch butterflies emerge from their chrysalis, they pump fluid from their abdomens into their wings, and then they excrete the excess fluid. What is this fluid made of?
A- Hemolymph

Q- When Monarch butterflies emerge from their chrysalis, they repeatedly move their labial flaps laterally, while at the same time unrolling and rolling back their proboscis. Why are they doing this?

Q- Last summer (2017) I saw a Monarch butterfly fluttering around in my garden, but I couldn’t find any caterpillars afterwards. This year I had dozens of caterpillars. Was last’s year visit a ‘scouting’ exploration? This would imply that Monarchs can transmit feeding locations information to their descendants?

Q- Do Monarch caterpillars eat each other?
A- Monarchs will cannibalize other Monarch eggs. This seems like a reasonable strategy, if too many caterpillars eat the same plant, all might starve before they get big enough to pupate. Larger caterpillars may also eat newly hatched caterpillars for the same reason.

Q- Do Monarch caterpillars feed at night?
A- They seem to in a captive setting, but that might be due to artificial lighting.

Q- How far can a Monarch caterpillar go in search of a spot to pupate in the wild?
A- Quite far relatively speaking, up to several meters (yards) depending on various conditions. They’re looking for the proper location to hang their chrysalis from. It has to be sheltered from the elements and predators. Usually it’s under a leaf or leaf stem or ledge (or even on an inukshuk).

Q- How much does a Monarch caterpillar eat?
A- Consider the Monarch caterpillar as a digestive tube. Their goal is to eat as much as possible in as short a period as possible. That being said, they will stop eating when going from one instar stage to the next (but they will eat their shed molt), and also when they are ready to pupate.

Q- Monarch caterpillars eat all parts of the Milkweed plant. When seedpods form later in the season and they eat them, does that give them a cue to migrate (in addition to changes in temperatures, degrees of sunlight, etc.)?

Q- Do pollinating insects have preferences for different Milkweed species? If so which factors (flower color, shape, blooming period, etc.) will influence their choices?
A- Their choices might be influenced by the flower color, its fragrance, its morphology, the type of nectar, the anatomy of the insect (long or short tongue) and what the insect needs are. For example, Bumblebees need pollen but Milkweeds produce little pollen, so they’re not attracted to those flowers. Also some insects are ‘specialists’ (only attracted to few flowers), whereas others are ‘generalists’. Check here for more information on this topic.

Q- Milkweed species have varying levels of toxic compounds (cardiac glycosides). Does that mean that Monarch caterpillars eating different species of milkweed will also show varying levels of toxicity? And if so what are the implications for their survival?

Q- Monarch populations along the east coast of Canada and the United States, when migrating south, do so during the hurricane season. Are there any studies about the impact of such weather events on their fall migration? How do their migration success rates compare with those of central Canada and the United States?

Q- When Monarchs from the east coast of Canada and the United States migrate south for the winter, do they all fly as far as the mountain forests of Mexico, or are some migrating to Florida and the Caribbean instead?
A- It has been shown that some Monarch butterflies migrating south along the east coast (and also from the Midwest) are actually stopping in Florida instead of making the trek to Mexico. There is also research that shows an 80% decline over the last two decades in Monarch butterflies migrating all the way south to the conifer forests of Mexico.

Q- SPOT PATTERNS ON THE WINGS: Do all Monarch butterflies (and other species for that matter) have the same spot pattern on their wings?

For more questions and answers check this link at Monarch Watch:

2nd & 5th instar Monarch caterpillars - Aug. 21, 2018 - © Denise Motard
2nd & 5th instar Monarch caterpillars – Aug. 21, 2018 – © Denise Motard


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