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Monarch Butterfly

The Monarch butterfly is among our best-known insects – one usually learned in childhood along with details of its life such as its annual migrations and protection from predators that it gains as a result of the primary food of its caterpillars – milkweeds. In this week’s Wild Things I will point out some of the less well-known details of the Monarch’s migrations and values of its use of milkweeds. As human populations have grown and infringed on its natural breeding and wintering habitats, Monarch numbers have declined and conservation efforts to protect Monarchs have grown – in large part through childhood education.

First described for science by Linnaeus in 1758, the English name “Monarch” for this butterfly is believed to have been given in honor of the British monarch, King William III of England – whose title, “Prince of Orange”, and orange flag seemed reflected by the dominance of orange in this butterfly’s wings.