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Mexico's Monarch Butterfly Reserves

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Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterfly
Butterfly Sex

Butterflies Mating

© Suzanne Barbezat
The Monarch Butterfly's life cycle consists of four distinct stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The transformation from egg to adult is completed in about 30 days, and the average monarch's life expectancy is about nine months.

Egg: Adult female monarchs lay their eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. These eggs hatch in about four days. Each female may lay between 100 and 300 eggs during her lifetime.

Larva (Caterpillar): Monarchs do all of their growing during this stage. The larva begins life by consuming its eggshell, and then begins to eat the milkweed plant on which it was laid. The milkweed is toxic to many of the monarch's would-be predators and so consuming this plant provides them with protection from their predators, who come to identify the monarch's colors and avoid them.

Pupa: The caterpillars attaches itself head-down to a twig, sheds its outer skin, and begins the transformation into a pupa (or chrysalis). During this stage the transformation from larva to adult is completed.

Adult:It is fairly easy to distinguish between male and female adult monarchs. Males have a black spot on a vein on each hind wing. Females often look darker than males and have wider veins on their wings. Adult monarchs eat nectar from flowers to get the energy they need for their long migration.

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