Did you know the Monarch butterflies seen in Florida are unique in the fact that they are at their greatest numbers in the winter months? The Monarch Butterfly migrates with the seasons. By the Fourth of July, some of our winter friends may be as far away as Canada as, with their arrival, they announce the emergence of Summer from Spring like the first robin signals the end of Winter.
The purpose of this web site is to harvest the interest we all share in the wild things of nature. This site is about planting butterfly gardens comprised of both nectar and larval food plantings (the Monarch, for example, is very specific as to what it will eat as are most other species of butterflies) and raising the caterpillars to butterflies for release. In Florida, we are fortunate to have 120 of the 700 known North American species present.
Our editorial focus in general will be the Florida Monarch Butterfly, but the site is open to any information pertinent to butterfly enthusiasts. "Florida Monarch" is an editorial focus which will revolve around solving the many mysteries associated with the Monarchs native to Florida. Monarchs corralled by the peninsula of Florida on their southerly migration may be unique to our state in that they are very active here during the winter months. The Monarchs from the rest of North America are relatively dormant, passing the winter in Mexico or California huddled in huge colonies in (once) remote woodlands.
Really? A Florida Monarch?
The average lifespan of a butterfly from egg to old age is about forty days and this number holds true for Monarchs as well with the exception of their migratory phase. A chemical change occurs in the migrating Monarchs that turns off reproduction and winds up the time clock to nine months for the butterfly's great journey. (A tagged Monarch has been recorded 1,200 miles from its release point.) When the migratory Monarchs begin the return trip north as the weather warms, they then mate and lay eggs as they go and finish their lives normally. The spring and summer generations are 40 day butterflies until climatic changes and changing body chemistry point the wintering generation south and the cycle begins again.
The Florida Monarch butterfly that migrates south, unlike the "continental" butterfly (which is itself divided into two populations split by the theoretically unbutterfly passable continental divide), is probably not the same butterfly that will begin the trip north in the Spring. There is thought that the Florida butterflies also "rest," but no resting colonies have been located in Florida at this writing. Our direct observations based on several years of raising and releasing Monarchs is that the ones we know are not "resting." We see several generations over the winter with a peak between February and May until, as the end of August approaches, the Monarchs become noticably absent from our butterfly garden which contains a large milkweed planting. They are elsewhere. We may see a butterfly or two during this period, but no larva are present. We do not see surviving larva again until mid-October.
The Monarch Butterfly lays its eggs on only one plant species, asclepias, more commonly known as milkweed, which is sold sometimes as "butterfly weed" at nurseries (not to be confused with butterfly bush which is an excellent nectrar plant, but not the larval host plant of the Monarch Butterfly). If you wish to attract Monarchs to your yard, a planting of this species is absolutely necessary.
The Monarch is married to this species because it gains protection from its toxins from predation by birds. Of all the eggs that are laid, some caterpillars are destined to be sacrificed to the education of each fledgling bird. The toxins absorbed by the caterpillar from the milkweed plant act when eaten by the bird making it momentarily violently ill until the now rather sick bird regurgitates the remains of the caterpillar. The bird usually does not die, but is certainly impressed and will not eat one again for the rest of its life.
Well, the smart ones don't.
We welcome any suggestions for improving the site. If you have articles and/or photos on the subject of butterflies, we are offering a publishing forum. We cannot guarantee publication or return of anything you submit as we must review and approve any article for publication submitted and the selection must be at our editorial discretion.
Thanks for visiting,
Dale and Peggy McClung
P.O. Box 48966, St. Petersburg, FL 33743-8966
Phone: (813) 381-1932Email: firstname.lastname@example.org