|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|Every fall millions of monarch butterflies stop over in pockets of localities near us on their migration south (see notes below). They cluster on eucalyptus trees until they cover every inch of the leaves. It is an amazing sight. To celebrate that incredible natural phenomenon, some towns hold a Monarch Butterfly Festival every year.|
This butterfly is a male. The male Monarch Butterfly may be easily distinguished from the female by noting the two highly visible black spots on the insect's hind wings and the thinner black webbing within the wings. The female's webbing is thicker and she has no identifying wing spot as the male does.
The Monarch Butterfly is the king of the insect world. Even though they are small creatures, they do phenomenal things. First, they develop from tiny eggs, to a caterpillar, become a chrysalis, and finally transform into a beautiful butterfly. They migrate, traveling great distances to over winter in a temperate climate. Amazingly enough, not one butterfly makes the entire round-trip journey. Winter butterflies are sluggish and do not reproduce. In spring they return to summer homes and breed along the way. Their offspring return to the starting point.
Danaus plexippus is the scientific name for the Monarch Butterfly. Related species in the family are found on all continents except the polar regions, wherever milkweed and related plants are found. It also provides the Monarch with an intriguing form of protection, since the milkweed juices assimilated by the Monarch make it poisonous to predatory birds. The beautiful orange color of the Monarch butterfly serves to teach predators that their intended meal might be toxic. Not all milkweeds produce cardiac glycosides, therefore not all Monarchs are poisonous. However, the warning orange color serves to disguise poisonous from the non-toxic Monarch.
Each Autumn, thousands of Monarch Butterflies gather in southern Canada to migrate south. Some of these butterflies travel over 2,900 kilometers, just to overwinter in places such as Michoacan, Mexico in a small town called Angangueo. Other Monarch Butterflies also overwinter in Cuba, and Pacific Grove, as well as Newark, California. In sanctuaries such as the one in Angangueo, Michoacan in Mexico there are millions of these gorgeous butterflies. From morning until about 1:00pm, they are most active. You can see them flying around and almost blocking the sky. You will hear the fascinating sound of their wings flapping. During their long flight there is a great danger from predators.
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