What’s black and white, and orange all over?

Monday, April 17, 2017
By: Stephanie Darnell, Research Scientist at Bayer Crop Science & Michael Dobbs, Senior Scientist at Bayer Crop Science
monarch butterfly

Monarchs. The level of fascination and imagination that they bring to the mind is immeasurable.  Children in elementary schools across the country are captivated by their intriguing color schemes, and scientists in lab coats are astonished at their unique migration patterns.

The monarch butterfly provides researchers, educators and enthusiasts plenty to rally behind. Here’s a few reasons why:

Who is the king of the insects?

Answer- The monarch. The unique coloring of the monarch doesn’t just make them pretty to look at. The black-orange-and-white specks on the butterflies are used as a warning and defense mechanism to other animals. When a predator spots them, they’re reminded of the fact that the monarch is in fact the king of insects, as they’re poisonous and inedible.

monarch butterfly

Where is the monarch’s favorite vacation spot?

Answer- Mexico. The monarch is famous for its migration patterns. It’s the only butterfly to make an annual two-way migration. We see this often with birds, but for butterflies it’s an uncommon phenomenon. To escape the cold weather, the eastern monarch goes from Canada down to Mexico. To make this an even greater spectacle, the generation of monarchs that heads down to Mexico has never been there before. Each trip is accomplished by a new generation.

fall migration of the monarch butterfly

Do monarchs think they’re too cool for school? Why aren’t we seeing as many of them?

Answer- No, they’re population is declining because they don’t have enough food to survive. Monarchs are currently being considered as species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. There are various reasons as to why monarchs are having trouble surviving. Lack of milkweed and nectar plants, climate change and loss of habitats in Mexico are a few of the contributing factors.


So how can farmers, AgVocates and Monarchs fly together as one?

Answer- By extending a helping hand—or wing. It’s no secret that farmers aren’t a big fan of weeds. While the milkweed plant can be an undesirable addition to a field of crops, there are ways to accommodate the crop. By leaving a line of milkweed between the road, ditch-line and field, farmers can avoid weeds and monarchs can still have access to their favorite treats. AgVocates can help by educating the general public about why it’s important to support monarchs, and by planting forage of nectar and milkweeds for the monarchs to pollinate on. Click here to learn more about how you can support the monarch butterflies.


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