Monarch Butterfly Species

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Monarch Butterfly Species

There are approximately 1.5 million insect species on our planet. Of this number scientists have identified about 200,000 varieties of moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera). While the moths compose a huge percent of this number, some 20,000 butterfly species have been identified, and they can be found around the globe, even in the deserts and frozen regions.

Monarch Butterfly Species

As field research continues, new butterfly species are being discovered every year. The Wildlife Conservation Society auctions off the rights to name new species, and the sizable monies collected are used for very worthwhile endeavors. One of the largest collections of butterflies in the world is at the McGuire Center. They have over 6 million specimens of Lepidoptera.

Monarch Butterfly Species

The Monarch Butterfly’s scientific name is Danaus Plesippus. This butterfly is distinguished by orange patterned wings with a small white spot in the center. During the female's short life span she may lay between 300 and 700 eggs. It is the most common member residing in the United States and Canada of the Milkweed Butterfly Family composing about 160 species. Those butterfly species whose caterpillar larvae eat milkweed plants almost exclusively comprise the Milkweed group. Because Monark Butterflies are the most well known of this group, they have become known as the Milkweed Butterfly.

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Monarch Butterflies are believed to have originated in Central America (where several related varieties of the Monarch remain), and gradually moved northward as the last Ice Age ended and the frozen land retreated. Today it has adapted well and summers all across North America and migrates southward in the winter.

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A cousin to the Milkweed Butterfly is the Viceroy Butterfly. Although this species is edible by predators, without having the noxious distasteful composition, it has developed through evolution to mimic the Monarch. The Viceroy Butterfly has copied the physical bright colors of its cousin, which deters many varieties of birds who associate this butterfly with indigestion. This process is known as “mimicry”, and takes advantage of a predator's acquired avoidance response.

Monarch Butterfly Species
Monarch Butterfly Species

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