Nature's Stained Glass (18)
|The stained-glass effect came from the light hitting the double wings from behind. |
Brilliant orange-reddish wings with black veins and white spots make Monarchs easily recognizable.
The Monarch butterfly is known by scientists as Danaus plexippus, which in Greek literally means "sleepy transformation." The name, which evokes the species' ability to hibernate and metamorphize, is actually inspired by the Greek myth of Danaus, in which the daughters of Danaus, king of Libya, flee Libya for Greece in order to avoid marrying their cousins. The long, migratory journey of the Monarch butterflies is reminiscent of the daughters' flight.
Adult Monarchs possess two pair of brilliant orange-reddish wings, featuring black veins and white spots along the edges. Their wingspan is about four inches, and they weigh less than half an ounce. Males, who possess distinguishing black dot (stigmata) along the veins of their wings, are slightly bigger than the females.
Each adult butterfly lives only about four to five weeks. But one of the many wonders of the Monarchs is the annual creation of a unique "Methuselah generation." As autumn approaches in their sites of migratory origin, a very special generation of butterflies is born. Unlike their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents -- all of whom had ephemeral lives measured only in weeks -- these migratory butterflies survive seven or eight months. In human terms, given our average life span of 75 years, this would be like having children who lived to be 525 years old!
This generation performs the incredible feat of flying from Canada and the United States to the center of Mexico -- after which they begin the northward journey again. Once they reach the United States, a kind of relay race begins: their short-lived offspring, with only four or five weeks to live, continue making the trek northward over several generations.