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Monarch Butterflies. PowerPoint Pizzazz by the ‘Butterfly Lady’ Jacqui Knight of Russell, Bay of Islands, NZ. Danaus plexippus. Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly. 1 – Egg/ Ovum 4 days (longer if cool). 1- Egg Ovum. 4. 2. 3. Egg (Ovum). smaller than a pin male dies soon after mating

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monarch butterflies

Monarch Butterflies

PowerPoint Pizzazz

by the ‘Butterfly Lady’ Jacqui Knightof Russell, Bay of Islands, NZ

Danaus plexippus


Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly

1 – Egg/Ovum4 days

(longer if cool)

1- Egg





egg ovum
Egg (Ovum)
  • smaller than a pin
  • male dies soon after mating
  • one female laid 1179 eggs!*
  • average female lays 400 eggs!

Photo and statistics:* Monarch Lab, University of Minnesota, used with permission


after about four days eggs are transparent

(can be as little as one day or may take all winter)

black face of caterpillar can be seen


Life Cycle : Caterpillar

1 – Egg/Ovum4 days

2 – Caterpillar/Larva10-14 days

1 - Egg



2 - Caterpillar



caterpillars larvae
Caterpillars (Larvae)
  • emerges only 2mm long
  • eats egg shell
  • grows in stages (five instars)
  • eats day and night for 9-14 days (Summer)
  • slower in Winter

five pairs of legs

egg to chrysalis, caterpillar grows in size 3000+ times


finally 5-6cm long

Not palatable generally to birds - chemical defence against predators


Life Cycle : Chrysalis

1 – Egg/Ovum4 days

2 – Caterpillar/Larva10-14 days

1 - Eggs



2 - Caterpillar


3 – Chrysalis


3 - Chrysalis/Pupa10-14 days

  • caterpillar lays down mat of silk
  • in centre of mat a tiny white silk button
  • clasps button with last two prolegs and lets go with front legs
  • hangs upside down in a J formation

The green colouration is caterpillar’s blood or haemolymph.

The make-up of the specks of gold unknown.


cuticle (skin) actually transparent

hangs 10-14 days as butterfly body forms inside


Fourth Stage : Adult

1 – Eggs/Ovum4 days

2 – Caterpillar/Larva10-14 days

1 - Eggs


4 - Adult


2 - Caterpillar


3 - Pupa


4 – Adult/Imagomates

3 - Chrysalis/Pupa10-14 days


Chrysalis shell breaks open



Adult pumps fluid into wings to straighten and strengthen

Then knits together two parts of mouth (proboscis)


finds a mate…

… and life cycle begins all over again


Photograph courtesy of Dale McClung,

  • Females have broader veins
  • Males have a black dot, a scent pouch, on their lower wing
  • Their black veins are also thinner

Photograph courtesy of Dale McClung,

food sources butterfly
Food Sources - Butterfly
  • Echium fastuosum ‘Pride of Madeira’
  • Schinus molle (Pepper Tree)
  • Tweedia
  • Buddleia
  • Bottlebrush, Poinsettia, Hibiscus
  • Cosmos, Lantana, Asters, Sage, Yarrow, Phlox, Zinnias
  • any flowering plants, nectar-rich
butterfly feeder
Butterfly feeder
  • sugar water


  • apple juice
  • pour a little onto a sponge or paper towel
  • leave on brightly coloured plate
butterfly feeder32
Butterfly feeder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar dissolved in 2 cups water
  • DO NOT USE HONEY (can spread disease from bees to other insects)
food sources caterpillars
Food Sources - Caterpillars
  • Milkweed (Gomphocarpus sp.)

was called Asclepias sp.

  • poisonous cardenolides or cardiac glycosides
  • cardenolides are poisonous to vertebrates (animals with backbone)
food sources caterpillars34
Food Sources - Caterpillars

Swan PlantGomphocarpus fruticosus

  • grows 1-2 metres
  • slender leaves
  • clusters of small cream flowers
  • seedpods resembling swans, silvery green,
  • seeds slightly bigger than a pin-head, hard, black
  • plants often stripped by Monarch caterpillars and die in height of season
food sources caterpillars35
Food Sources - Caterpillars

Giant Swan PlantGomphocarpus physocarpus

  • 2-3 metres
  • large round leaf
  • larger cream flowers
  • round seedpods more like hairy golfballs
  • rapid growth, strong plant, usually outlives caterpillars’ attacks
  • may need staking - plant out of strong winds
  • milky latex-like sap
  • poisonous
  • can cause itching
  • if eaten - vomiting, stupor, weakness, spasms
alternative food sources
  • Only suitable for caterpillars 2cm +
  • Pumpkin, cucumber rind, courgettes
  • Put thin slivers on to a plate
  • Use the ‘moat’ process to force the caterpillars to eat
  • Frass (poop) will change colour!
  • Birds –

generally do not predate Monarchs – caterpillars are poisonous to them – some birds are exception and build up tolerance to poison

  • Wasps:
    • Tachinid larva burrows into a Monarch larva (caterpillar), eats tissues and fluid from Monarch
    • Brachonid wasp, femalelays one egg inside Monarchlarva. From that egg, asmany as 32 genetically-identical adults develop

Photograph: Morris, Clearwater, Florida, USA

  • Do not try and kill pests --
  • Some wasps are beneficial, introduced to control other pests such as aphids
protection from wasps
Protection from Wasps
  • Vase full of water on a tray
  • Spread a thin layer of water on the tray to act as a moat
  • Put a branch of Swan Plant in the vase
  • Remove small caterpillars very gently from their host plant using a ‘pocket’
  • Add caterpillars by pegging pocket to Swan Plant
  • Add more food daily to the vase
  • Under the tray you will want to put layers of newspaper to catch all the frass or poop
new zealand
New Zealand
  • NZ has only 23 species of butterfly
    • 11 endemic
    • 12 non-endemic
new zealand44
New Zealand
  • first recorded in NZ 1800s
  • believed to have blown here on a storm
  • no harmful effects on NZ ecosystem
new zealand45
New Zealand
  • 1960-1970s Monarch Butterflies tagged
  • 6500 butterflies tagged
  • 1011 recovered
  • Only 28 butterflies flew more than 20km

Photo by Ed Wesley, NE Pennsylvania

Photo courtesyLinda & Jeff Ives

new zealand46
New Zealand
  • no pattern of migration
  • parks and gardens – thousands of butterflies in one tree
  • following taken near Russell, Bay of Islands
north america
North America
  • Native
    • East of the Rockies: Reserves in Mexico
    • Autumn: migrate up to 3000km south to Mexico for the North American Winter
      • That’s one and a half times the length of New Zealand!
    • Spring: migrate back to where their great great grandparents come from – 5th generations!
north america49
North America
  • Native to America
    • West of the Rockies: overwinter in California – e.g. Monterey Peninsula
    • Spring: migrate back north – some say to where their forebears lived.
north america50
North America

80% of the Eastern Population of migrating Monarchs enters Mexico by crossing the Rio Grande in Southwest Texas.

For six weeks each Fall (Autumn) many thousands of monarchs cluster and nectar nightly on the scrubby, dry vegetation. Thousands of square miles of scrub brush provide shelter and sustenance for the many millions of Monarchs.

This pair of tagged Monarchs will nectar on the Lantana, warming themselves in the direct sunlight before resuming their southward trek.

Photo courtesy

Rio Bravo Nature Center Foundation, Inc. Eagle Pass, Texas

for further information usa
For further information (USA)

Thanks to Morris (Clearwater, Florida, USA) and Nadine Bovis (Titirangi) for many of the photographs

monarch butterflies52

Monarch Butterflies

for further information, plants, presentations to schools and clubs etc contact the ‘Butterfly Lady’, Jacqui Knight, Russell, Bay of Islands, NZ

That’s all folks!