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Bug of the Week is a bit late for a good reason. I had a post all queued up and then a monarch butterfly flew by.

Not just any monarch butterfly. Do you notice anything unusual about it?

What about now?

This monarch is extremely skittish. It won't let me close. See it yet?

This is the best I could do before it flew away. On it's hind wing is a circular paper tag. This is a tagged monarch!

Why is it tagged? People have been tagging monarchs to learn more about the their migration. You can learn more about the tagging program at Monarch Watch.

Wish I could have read the number and found out where it was from.

~~~~~

Want to discover more about monarchs and their migrations? Check out the new middle grade book The Monarchs Are Missing: A Butterfly Mystery by Rebecca E. Hirsch. It was nominated for a 2018 Cybils Award.

Illustrated with large color photographs and clever illustrations, this book delves into all the reasons that monarch butterfly populations have been on the decline. Hirsch goes beyond the loss of habitat in the monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico, and examines other factors such as:

  • Increase in herbicide use killing their milkweed food plants.
  • Decrease in fall wildflowers that supply food for their long migration flights.
  • Planting tropical milkweeds, which encourages the monarchs to overwinter in Southern states, and thus increases the spread of a disease.
  • Changes in weather conditions in Texas in the spring.

To counteract the bad news, Hirsch also suggests some small changes that could make a big difference, like planting native milkweeds and avoiding pesticide use. She also encourages kids to participate in any one of a number of different citizen scientist projects for monarchs.

The Monarchs are Missing is part scientific mystery and part tribute to an amazing insect. It is a great choice for kids interested in nature and particularly in butterflies.

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: Millbrook Pr (January 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1512452505
ISBN-13: 978-1512452501

It will soon be part of our growing list of children's books about butterflies and moths at Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: This book was provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

I've probably mentioned this before, but one reason to publish blog posts like this is to have a diary of events over the seasons and years.

For example, remember the monarch caterpillar from a few weeks ago?

Now I have a record there were monarch caterpillars active the week of October 18, 2017.

Last week I discovered a newly emerged monarch butterfly drying its wings.


It was only a few feet from where I took the photograph of the caterpillar.

Wouldn't it be cool if it was the same insect? Or perhaps its one of the caterpillar's siblings?

In any case, it is a male. You can tell from the scent gland on its hind wing. It flew away shortly afterwards.

Wonder where it is this week.

Have you seen any monarchs?

After posting about the queen caterpillars on our rush milkweeds last week, this week I came across another scene.

Yes, there's a butterfly and a caterpillar. Do you see what is unusual about this?

Let's take a closer look.

Catch it yet?

Maybe if you see the caterpillar more closely?

The caterpillar has two pairs of filaments or "tubercles" that look like antennae. That means it is a monarch butterfly caterpillar, Danaus plexippus.

The butterfly is a queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus. The queen caterpillar has three pairs of tubercles and different patterned stripes (see comparison here).

They are life stages of two different species, although they are related.

Yes, our milkweeds are busy this year.