Monarch Butterflies Mating in Flight Demonstrate Amazing Insect Stamina

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Talk about stamina.   We knew Monarch butterflies had what it takes to make a 3,000 mile migratory flight from Canada to Mexico each Fall.  Now we’ve witnessed another demonstration of Monarch endurance.
The two butterflies pictured here were tagged on Sunday, October 31.  Shortly thereafter, they were observed mating.  On November 1, they were spotted still locked in a reproductive dance–24 hours later.  
The photograph, taken in my butterfly garden in San Antonio, Texas, is a testament to Monarch butterfly potency.  The couple traversed the yard, breaking from flight to rest on vitex, crepe myrtle, Cowpen Daisy and milkweed.
We often see Monarch butterflies mating this time of year even though scientists have told us that in the Fall, Monarchs drop into diapause, a semihibernative state that allows them to conserve their energy for the long flight to the Mexican mountains. Theoretically, Monarchs are not reproductive at this stage.  Yet those of us who have witnessed autumn butterfly mating dances always wonder what’s up with the mating when they’re supposed to be saving their energy for migrating.
Dr. Chip Taylor of the University of Kansas at Lawrence, founder of Monarch Watch, explained. When the temperatures climb and the heat rises, “The Monarchs have a hard time staying in diapause,” he said in a recent interview.  “As the temperatures climb, they become sexual and start reproducing….The whole game is replication.”  Dr. Taylor added that these Monarch butterflies will not migrate to Mexico, but will stay in the neighborhood.  Their energy will have been spent, but it’s possible that their offspring could migrate.
We understand. Hot temperatures (84 degrees yesterday!), willing partners, and nectar to keep energy levels high translate into amorous activity for Monarch butterflies–not unlike other species.
Stay tuned for more from Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch later in the week.

4 Responses

  1. […] place going. And in the process, I got an entomology lesson of my own, when I stumbled across two monarch butterflies mating. Apparently, the monarchs can go at it for hours. When I drew closer to take a picture, they […]

  2. […] San Antonio Riverwalk back in September.  Later in the fall, we witnessed an amazing display of Monarch butterfly reproductive endurance that lasted more than 24 […]

  3. Monika Maeckle
    | Reply

    Thanks for writing, Joe. I’ll see if I can rustle up a photo of Dr. Taylor.

  4. Joe Read
    | Reply

    Great blog post today and great photograph. Looks like you’ve tagged two more. I’m learning a lot, and hope your interview with the monarch expert includes his photo. Always wondered what he looks like.
    Joe

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