Monarch Butterfly Chatbook – The Egg

THE EGG – HUEVECILLO

The male and female monarch butterfly will fly from Mexico to Texas. There they will mate and shortly thereafter die. The mother butterfly urgently needs to find milkweed to deposit her eggs on. This last act will insure the next generation of monarch butterflies. There are four generations that wind their way towards Canada. The fifth generation is the one that lives the longest and returns to Mexico in early fall. How does the butterfly know where milkweed grows?

The butterfly flits over a field or garden looking for milkweed. Watch the flight pattern and you may see a mother butterfly looking for a host plant. Plants have ultraviolet patterns on their leaves and flower petals making them visible to pollinators such as the monarch butterfly. Humans can’t see this but a butterfly can.  A monarch uses a combination of visual and chemical cues to find milkweed.

Once a mother butterfly lands on milkweed, she uses sensory organs in her feet and head to make sure it is milkweed. A monarch may even drum on a milkweed leaf with her forefeet to be certain. The forefeet are located close to the head.   

Notice that there are three eggs on the milkweed plant in the illustration. The mother butterfly carries approximately 200 eggs in her stomach. She touches the abdomen to the underside of a leaf and deposits an egg.  The mother usually deposits only one egg per plant. There is a reason for this. It is probable that the first caterpillar to emerge from an egg will scout for other eggs. A caterpillar is able to defend its own food territory when there is no competition.  Eggs have protein.  Sometimes a mother butterfly is in a hurry and may deposit more than one egg on the same plant. This is known as egg dumping.

By depositing eggs on different milkweed plants, eggs have a better chance of survival if something goes wrong.  There are many risks to milkweed including: Some plants may not be as hardy as others; a storm could destroy a plant; milkweed might be removed because a gardener thinks it is a weed; a land developer could clear cut a large track of land removing all native plants; farmers may plant monoculture crops, genetically engineered crops and may spray crops with pesticides.

There is a loss of approximately 3,000 acres of farmland each year to development. Roadside crews may use herbicides (ER-beh-syds) which poison milkweed, a plant that grows along roadways, one of the major corridors of butterflies. If there is no milkweed along the migration trail, there will be no monarch butterfly migration. This is why it is so important to let milkweed grow.

Event: Environmental Film Festival at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College March 11

Join us for the March Environemental Film Fest
LCOOCC, 13466 Trepania, Hayward, Wisconsin

LCOOCC James “Pipe” Mustache Auditorium
Thursday, March 11th, 2010
Lunch Available on Site @ 11:30am for $5 – Provided by LCO Elders Association
12:00pm  Speaker:  Dr. Damian Vraniak
12:30pm Film: “America’s Lost Landscape: The Tall Grass”
1:30pm Community Discussion – Advocacy to Action

Common Sunflower
Common Sunflower at Damian Vraniak's Prairie in Springbrook, WI.

Prior to Euro American settlement in the 1820s, one of the major landscape features of North America was 240 million acres of tall grass prairie, but between 1830 and 1900 the prairie was steadily transformed to farmland.  This change brought about an enormous social change for Native Americans.  The film creates a powerful and moving viewing experience about the natural and cultural history of America.  Loss of prairie and fragmentation is a loss of many species, plant, animal, and human. (57 minutes) 

Save the Dates for Upcoming Environmental Films and Sustainable Living Education!Thursdays –April 22nd and May 6th

For More Information Contact:  Amber Marlow – GIS Lab/ Rm 508 or @ 634-4790 ext 156