Regal the monarch butterfly
Also known as wanderer butterfly and milkweed butterfly
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.
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.
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?
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
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