A great egret looks for breakfast at Calamvale Creek

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Scientific stuff

Monarch butterfly
Also known as wanderer butterfly and
milkweed butterfly

Species:
Danaus plexippus
Subfamily: Danainae
Family: Nymphalidae
Order: Lepidoptera

Identification:
Very large butterfly with bright orange or orange-brown wings that have black veins, giving the appearance of a stained-glass window.

Narrow forewings, thick black line studded with white spots makes a border for the wings. Head and thorax also black with white spots.

Monarch butterflies fly with a sporadic gliding flight.

Males patrol the larval food plants (Asclepias curassavica in south-east Queensland) in search of females.

Females breed all year round in coastal areas of the State.

Wingspan:
9-10 centimetres
(four inches).

Personality:
Likes wandering, near and far.

Using our photos

Photos on this website are copyright. If you want to use any, email us at: creeklife@gmail.com

Regal's photos

Regal is a colourful young monarch butterfly who caught our photographer's attention when it landed on a nearby milkweed plant.

In the United States, monarchs are famous for travelling thousands of kilometres south in huge migrations during August-October to hibernate along the California coast and in Mexico.

The photographer said:
“I had photographed several monarch butterflies around the creek during summer and autumn.

“One day I was trying to find some turtles to photograph when the prettiest monarch I had seen landed on a flowering milkweed plant on the creek bank a few metres from me.

“The butterfly's colours added so well to the milkweed flower's colours that I couldn't resist taking a few photos.

“It was quite a dark area of the creek bank, and I wasn't sure whether the photos would pick up the colours. I couldn't get closer because I would have fallen in the water.

“As it turned out, the photos came out very well, one of which is the top monarch photo on this page.

“Some of the other photos are of monarchs in other areas of the park surrounding the creek.”

Critters of Calamvale Creek

Regal the monarch butterfly

Also known as wanderer butterfly and milkweed butterfly

Danaus plexippus

wanderer_butterfly_1 (36K)

How do you do. I'm Regal the monarch butterfly from Calamvale Creek in Brisbane, Australia.

In Australia, monarch butterflies are better known as wanderer butterflies. Monarchs were introduced into Australia around 1871 — which was 101 years after Captain James Cook reached Australia.

We are powerful flyers and can cover long distances in our short life-span of up to six weeks in summer. We have been timed flying at 40 kilometres an hour.

monarch_butterfly_2 (24K)

In North America, monarchs are famous for travelling huge distances to hibernate over winter. In Australia we do this to a more limited extent, but blue tiger butterflies are probably better known in Australia for mass migrations.

Where do I live?

In summer you can find us anywhere along the east coast of Australia — especially on the Queensland coast. Some of us go further south, and it is not unusual to find us in New South Wales, and to a lesser extent in Victoria and the south-east part of South Australia.

A few of us live in small suitable parts of central Australia, and also in an area near the bottom of Western Australia.

Danaus_plexippus_3 (32K)When the cooler weather signals the approach of winter, the monarchs that are inland migrate toward the coast.

Those of us in Queensland and northern New South Wales continue breeding throughout the year, allowing new generations of monarchs to replace the older generations.

In cold areas down south, the adults don't breed through winter. They cluster together in hundreds or thousands, hanging from tree branches.

This clustering starts in about April, and lasts until the start of spring in September (or earlier if the weather is warm enough).

What do I eat?

milkweed_flower_4 (31K)I love milkweed. Look at the beautiful flowering milkweed at right growing on the east bank of Calamvale Creek. How could anyone resist it!

Well, now that I think about it, most critters do resist it because its milky sap contains poisons — cardiac glycosides — that make them violently ill.

Our caterpillars feed on milkweed, and build up a poisonous “anti-bird” property. This continues through the caterpillar's life cycle as it turns into a butterfly. We may look as beautiful as a stained-glass window in a cathedral, but we taste horrible. Most birds wouldn't touch us with ten-foot barbecue tongs. They know they would be calling for the animal doctor within minutes if they ate us, because they would become extremely sick. Only a few birds, such as some currawongs, can eat us without suffering.

More on our lifestyle

wanderer_butterfly_5 (34K)Monarch butterflies warm up by basking with our wings open and our backs toward the sun. You can see me warming up in the photo at left.

The female monarchs lay single eggs under the leaves of various species of milkweed from the genus Asclepius.

When the caterpillars emerge they eat the leaves and the flowers of the plant.

We adults love the nectar from milkweed flowers, especially Asclepias curassavica, but in areas where milkweeds are not blooming we take nectar from other types of flowers. We are more common in areas that have more milkweeds.

— Regal the monarch butterfly