Designing with the Monarchs

Alysse Mon, 07/18/2016 - 19:59


California Parks gift shops requested I add Monarch Butterflies to the Nettles offerings in both earrings and pendant styles.  I heartily agreed.  The digital collage with vintage elements and moon cycle imagery is classic Nettles style with a boho flair.  What do you think? 

The design process took several days because I geeked out.  Often, learning more about a creature informs my art, so I read about the amazing life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly.  Do you know that the monarch butterfly needs no camoflage because it's fully poisonous?  The eggs are laid on the milkweed plant and the larve consume the plants leaves, so the butterfly is fully toxic to birds and predators when it emerges.  I learned that there are many varities of Milkweed, so no matter which state you live in the lower US, you can plant "easy grow", native Milkweed to encourage monarchs in your backyard. 

I layered this vintage butterfly image, with milkweed and one of my very old star charts, with moon cycle imagry, because Monarch Butterflies are quite different from other species and our scientists don't fully know HOW they navigate to Mexico and back via four GENERATIONS each year.  

Fluttering facts..........

  • • A black spot on an inside surface of its hind wing distinguishes the male Monarch butterflies from the females that have no such spot

  • • The monarch butterfly does not have lungs; breathing takes place through tiny vents in the thorax or  abdomen called spiracles, and an organized arrangement of tubes called trachea, distribute the oxygen through the Monarch’s body system

  • • The wings flap slower than other butterflies at about 300 to 720 times a minute

  • • Senses of smell and vision help the Monarch butterflies to assess its environment

  • • They have a broad spectrum  perception of colors and can see even the UV light that humans cannot

  • • Their process of communication uses colors and scents. Chemical discharged from the rear wing glands help the males to attract its mate

  • • The Monarch butterfly can cumulatively lay about a maximum of 250 eggs per day at the rate of one egg at a time. The witnessed highest number of eggs laid by a monarch butterfly in captivity is 1179

  • • These butterflies use their eyes to locate flowers, they use their antennas to smell the nectar and the minute receptors lodged in their feet called “tarsi” come in handy to taste  sweet substances

  • • Adult monarchs feed on nectar and water by sipping on it using a sucking tube called proboscis that lies coiled under the head when not in use

What's unbelieveable is that they live in cycles of four generations each year.

Stage 1

February & March: Locate a mate and search for an ideal place to lay their eggs

Stage 2

March-April: They lay their eggs on the leaves of milkweed plants. The larvae eat, grow and metamorphose into a chrysalis.

Stage 3

May-June: The third generation butterflies live out a life-cycle like the first generation. They then perish in about fifteen to fifty days after metamorphosing into spectacular adult monarch butterflies.

Stage 4

This generation repeats the processes the other three generations of Monarch butterflies underwent, but with the one crucial difference of traveling (migrating) to California through Mexico to enjoy the warmer climate there. They live for six to eight months until they again get ready to undertake the return migration.

Note: In effect, the fourth generation of the Monarch butterflies are the only ones that migrate, as, sadly, the butterflies of the first three generations hardly survive beyond 6 weeks of emerging from their pupas.

This generation of butterfly gets to party up in Mexico, soaking up the sun then fly back at their travel rate of 12-25 miles an hour.  It's nice to know the Mexican government has set aside many parcels of land in the Sierra Madres as Monarch Butterfly habitat. 



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About the author

Alysse Hennessey is the owner-operator of Nettles Jewelry. She is happily living the good life in the Pacific Northwest, hiking with her kids, and playing ukulele in her spare time.