One of the most famous butterflies in the world is called the Monarch in North America and also The Wanderer in Australia. In Australia they can be found in every state and territory but are most common along the coast of australia , especially from Adelaide to Cairns. Overseas the Monarch is found in the U.S.A, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand to list just a few. One of the most amazing aspects of this butterfly is its migratory patterns.
This butterfly is very special as it manages to migrate from the Canada and northern U.S. states to Mexico and southern U.S. states every year. The amazing thing is that during the southern migration each butterfly will only make part of the journey in its one to two month lifespan. So it takes multiple generations of the butterfly to get down south before winter hits, during which the butterflies rest. This "rest" or diapause is one where they do not look to mate as most butterflies do, increasing their lifespan up to 9 months. This may say something about the stresses of relationships and having children !! After winter is over these same butterflies leave and head north and finally mate . This is an Aussie blog and the reason I mention it is that there is an excellent movie playing now at Imax Melbourne that covers this very journey. " Flight of the Butterflies 3D" is playing this week and it would be a wonderful experience for children and adults to share . I personally am very keen on getting down there and seeing it for myself.
In Australia the migration occurs just before winter and involves the Wanderer moving from inland areas to the coast. Sydney , Adelaide and Newcastle are some of the most common places for the butterflies to gather over winter. Once again the butterflies do not mate straight away , instead waiting for winter to pass.
The Wanderer has many predators and it has an impressive technique for keeping the birds, insects and parasites away . The caterpillar mostly eats milkweed before it makes a chrysalis and becomes a butterfly. Milkweed contains a toxic steroid called cardenolides that means that in any stage of its development , the Wanderer tastes very bitter. Sometimes the Wanderer is so toxic that the predator will vomit after eating its prey. The toxicity of the milkweed is the plants defense from being eaten , which the Wanderer has managed to utilise. The Wanderer's striking colours act as a warning to its predators that it will be toxic to them. This advertising is lucky for us as I find this butterfly one of the most striking that I have seen in the wild.
For people from all over Australia that would like to attract the Wanderer they need at least two plants in their garden. Milkweed is a good plant for the caterpillar to eat and a nectar plant is required for the adult butterfly. Milkweed is not carried by every nursery but luckily Jo at Butterfly Host Plants is here to help. Butterfly Host Plants is based in Brisbane and will send out milkweed seeds in the mail at very reasonable prices. They have other plants available too and the website is well worth checking out at www.butterflyhostplants.com.au . The service is unavailable to people in Western Australia and Tasmania due to government quarantine requirements. If you are in one of those states and you can't get your hands on any let me know and I will assist in the search.
The Monarch / Wanderer has a special story , hopefully you can continue it in you garden . I will be back next week , in the meantime happy butterfly gardening.