64¢ Monarch Butterfly
Issue Date: May 17, 2010
City: New York, NY
Monarch butterflies are born to fly. Each fall, millions of monarchs from the U.S. and Canada journey south up to 3,000 miles to overwinter in the forests of Mexico and Southern California.
Monarchs are the only butterflies that make such a journey. Unable to survive the cold winters in the north, the monarchs flutter south to hibernate. When they waken from their slumber the following spring, they mate, lay eggs, and die.
The eggs hatch after 4 to 5 days, and the monarch caterpillar continuously feeds on milkweed. After about 2 weeks of gorging, the caterpillar sheds its skin, which becomes a jade green and gold-speckled chrysalis (cocoon.) Inside the chrysalis, the plump caterpillar transforms into a bright orange butterfly. After emerging from its cocoon, the monarch has a short life left. It will live about 2 to 6 weeks before laying eggs for the next generation.
Four generations of monarchs are born each year. The fourth generation, born in early fall, is different from the rest. It lives 6 to 8 months and makes the great migration south, where it hibernates in the forests of Mexico, before awakening to lay its eggs.
In February 2010, torrential storms hit the monarch nesting grounds. An estimated 50 to 60% of the population was lost.