Monday, September 7, 2009

Those Who Love and Those Who Labor

At long last, our new camera has arrived! Almost as if on cue, a Queen butterfly dropped by for a photo op - a rare sight in My Florida Backyard. Our prodigious amount of milkweed draws Monarchs by the dozens, but Queens aren't very frequent visitors, for some reason. At any rate, not only did Her Majesty pose nicely for pictures, she also laid a few eggs that I was able to gather later. With any luck, they'll hatch in a few days and we can raise a few more Queens.

Around the same time, a pair of Monarchs decided the time had come for love...

Butterfly mating is an awful lot less disturbing than, say, duck mating. After a gentle dance in the air, they meet together on ground, flutter together for a bit, and then go their separate ways. Hardly a wing scale seems to be ruffled.

Note that you can tell the butterfly on top in this picture is a male, because of the dark spots visible on the upper hind wing. Those dark spots are actually scent glands that help attract females.

For more pictures of both the Queen and the mating Monarchs, see my Butterfly Gallery on Flickr.

How can you tell them apart?
I've been asked by several people how to tell Monarchs and Queens apart. It's much easier when they're side by side, of course, and very simple from a top view. Queens are a deeper, richer orange color, and their upper wings lack the black lines that a monarch has.

Left: Monarch; Right: Queen

When seen with their wings folded, it can be a bit more of a challenge, especially when they're in flight. Again, the coloration can help. Monarchs (top) tend to be a little lighter in color.

Queens (bottom) have some white pigmentation along their black lines, and their forewings lack the black markings.

If in doubt, though, it's easiest to try to view them from the top, when the differences really aren't mistakable.

Their caterpillars are slightly different as well, although the chrysalis of each is strikingly similar.

For more info on telling these types of butterflies apart, click here.

Well, needless to say, we're glad to have a camera again here in My Florida Backyard. The frequency of our posts should increase again, so be sure to come back often!

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