October 9, 2015 - Male Monarch Butterfly - Member of the Fourth Generation
Well I guess they have their own time schedule. I was hoping this one would eclose conveniently on Monday October 12 at approximately 8 AM--in time to have his wings dry for release down at the North Garland High School newly planted butterfly garden where I am scheduled to meet with a representative from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Mayor Athas and other important folks at 10 AM.
However, as it turns out, he had his own schedule in mind--not mine. I was all alone when I released him in my front yard. I was afraid to keep him in the laundry basket any longer than necessary. He was not like a Mexican fritillary that I released after a Loving Garland Green meeting who stuck around to suck the nectar of my flowers for about 10 minutes. No, this Monarch was up and away, not stopping for a photo shoot over my flowers. Thus I only have this photo of him as he is traversing the sides of the mesh laundry basket in the direction of freedom.
All that remains of him is a former shell of himself--the empty husk of his chrysalis that he left behind in his laundry basket birthing chamber. It's hard to imagine that something so large and magnificent could have emerged from such a tiny shell. Nature is fascinating.
How do I know the Monarch I rescued was a Male?
If you will look at the hind wings of my Monarch butterfly above, you will see that it has two black dots on its hind wings. Only the males of this species have the black dots on their hind wings. I wasn't sure so I enlarged a section of the hind wings of my photo above and sure enough, there are two black dots.
Update on the Remaining Rescued Monarch to Be
Yesterday morning it was a caterpillar and last night (October 8) it was a pupa. This one will eclose sometime around the 21st of October.
So how does it feel to release a Monarch Butterfly?
It feels great! I feel like I have done something important. It is estimated that only about 5% of Monarchs make it to become butterflies in the wild. However, the odds are much better if they are rescued and saved in a protected environment such as an old laundry basket. In protected environments Monarchs have a 95% or better chance of completing their lifecycle.
The Monarch I released today is a member of the fourth generation of Monarch this year. This means, that it is destined to migrate several thousand miles to the Mexican highlands where it will exist in a semi-state of hibernation until spring of 2016. Then it will awaken and begin the journey north--mating and then dying somewhere along the way.
In March and April the first generation of Monarchs are born. They live from 2 to 6 weeks. During May and June the second generation of Monarchs appear and they too live from 2 to 6 weeks after becoming a butterfly. In July and August the third generation live out the same story--a lifespan as adult butterflies from 2 to six weeks. The fourth and last generation has a different lifeline. This generation lives for 180-240 days (six to eight months) as adult butterflies. The fourth generation is born (eclose) in September and October. Shortly after they begin their journey to the Mexican highlands.