A question often asked, “how can you tell it’s a male or female Monarch Butterfly?”
Female (left) and male Monarch (right)
The difference is easy to see when you are looking at the upper side of the butterfly’s wings. On the hind wings of the male Monarch are two black dots, one dot on each hind wing. These dots are actually pockets filled with pheromones, or “love dust.” When the male and female meet, he sprinkles his love dust, and if she is receptive, the pair will join abdomen to abdomen, where they stayed coupled together for several hours.
You can also see the difference by comparing wing veination. The females wing veins are thicker and smokier, the male’s wing veins are thinner.
During the summer breeding months, you can often tell the difference by behavior, especially when near a patch of milkweed. The males vigorously fly about looking for females, whereas the females are more slowly flitting and hovering around the foliage, looking for places on which to oviposit her eggs. Their behavior during the fall migration is such that both male and female are intently drinking nectar, building their lipid reserves for the long journey south.
Next time you see a Monarch in your garden, have a look and see if you can tell whether male or female.
Male and female Monarchs mating and ascending to a Maple Tree from “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” illustrated book (unpublished).
Plant and they will come!
Alighting on the buds of our Marsh Milkweed plants, you can see in these photos that the female Monarch is curling her abdomen to the underside to deposit eggs. She will go from bud to bud and leaf to leaf ovipositing one egg at a time. A female, on average, deposits 700 eggs during her lifetime, fewer in hot, dry weather.
Female Monarch Butterfly and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Butterflies do not “lay” eggs; we say oviposit or deposit. And you wouldn’t describe a caterpillar as hatched, but that it has emerged or eclosed.
Grow Marsh Milkweed and Common Milkweed and you most definitely will have female Monarchs calling your garden home!In the above photo you can see how she is contorting her abdomen to correctly position the eggs
Male Luna Moth and Phlox davidii
Please join me on Wednesday evening, April 29th, at 7pm at the Hamilton Wenham Public Library where I will be giving my Pollinator Garden program and screening several short films. This event is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!
Catbird and Dogwood Fruits
Female Monarch Butterfly Depositing Egg on Milkweed
I am currently booking programs for 2016-2017 and would be delighted to present to your club, library, school, and private or public event. See thePrograms Page of my website and feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Willowdale Estate Topsfield
For Devera, who wrote in yesterday asking how to tell the difference between a male and female Monarch Butterfly ~
Click photos to view large.
The first photos shows all male Monarch Butterflies necatring at Seaside Goldenrod. Notice the pair of little black pockets, or dots, on the inner vein of the hind wings. These are pockets of pheromones, or what scientists actually refer to as “love dust,” which the male sprinkles on the female during courtship.
The female Monarch Butterfly lacks the the black pockets on her hind wings. Notice too that her wing veination is thicker and smokier.
During courtship, male and female join, and he carries her to higher ground. This photo shows the male and female mating, with the male above.
From our garden ~ Newly emerged female Monarch Butterfly drying her wings. Monday a male emerged, Wednesday a female–looks promising for another batch of Monarchs before summer’s end!
Newly Emerged Female Monarch Butterfly