Monarch Butterfly Essay

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Danaus plexippus is also known as the Monarch butterfly; it is found in temperate climates ranging from southern Canada to Paraguay including the subtropical and tropical climates in between (Elzinga, 2004). In North America it is only present during summer months (Evans, 1984). Butterflies begin to move south during autumn months, initially in small groups that join together to become flocks of thousands of male and female Monarchs (Evans, 1984). Western Danaus plexippus populations fly southwest; central and eastern populations fly south or south-west (Elzinga, 2004). Western populations spend winters in the Pacific coast area between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Tens of thousands of Monarchs spend winter in semi-hibernation, clustered on branches of Monterey pine trees and eucalyptus. In the spring months, mating occurs and both sexes return to their previous locations. Females stop along the way to deposit eggs on milkweeds (Elzinga, 2004). Populations from the eastern United States hibernate in a different area, but despite extensive research involving the marking of thousands of monarchs to follow their route, their hibernation site remained a mystery until a few years ago. The marking, which consisted of attaching a numbered label to the forewing of the Monarch, provided important information. On the same day, a marked butterfly was found seventy-seven miles away from its original capture site (Pennesi, 2003). It was found that the marked butterflies were traveling towards Mexico, but the trace lines disappeared at the Texas state line. Estimates have been made that nearly fourteen million Danaus plexippus can be found hibernating in a region only four acres in area. Monarchs are capable of flying up to 30 km per hour. Total mileage of a migratory trip can total over 3000 km (Pennesi, 2003). They generally fly close to the ground; heights usually do not

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