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Monarch General Characteristics

Insects are characterized by having three main body divisions—head, thorax, and abdomen—and three pairs of legs, which are attached to the thorax, or second body division. Adult insects usually have two pairs of wings. When present, the wings are also attached to the thorax. An adult insect's head includes eyes, antennae, and mouthparts. The abdomen—last body division—has spiracles, or breathing holes, and reproductive organs.

Most insects develop through a series of stages termed metamorphosis. There are two basic types of metamorphosis—incomplete and complete. Insects developing through incomplete metamorphosis change from egg, to nymph, to adult. Insects with complete metamorphosis change from egg, to larva, to pupa, to adult.

Butterflies belong to a group (order) of insects called Lepidoptera, which means scaly wing. Butterflies have two pairs of wings covered with scales that give them their colorful appearance. Structures found on the head of the adult butterfly include eyes, antennae, and the proboscis. Butterfly antennae—sensory organs used for hearing, smelling, and touching—have a "club" or "knob" at the tip. The proboscis, a long coiled tube, is used for feeding on liquid food, such as flower nectar.

The order Lepidoptera also includes moths and skippers. All members of this order undergo complete metamorphosis, with egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. Several characteristics such as antennae shape, thickness of body, position of the wings at rest and time of activity are used to distinguish butterflies, skippers, and moths.

Monarchs are characterized by their bold orange, black, and white pattern and the short, undeveloped front pair of legs. Furthermore, Monarchs are well known for their long-distance migration. They may be confused with the Queen or Viceroy butterfly that have similar markings. However, the Viceroy is not found in San Diego County. Consult www.sdnhm.org/exhibits/monarca/butterflies.html or a butterfly field guide for descriptions, range, and behavior of each type.

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Monarch Life Cycle

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