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Are Monarch Butterflies Territorial?


Are monarch butterflies territorial?

"Mummy Mummy! The other butterflies are tickling my butterfly and he doesn't like it!"

For a brief moment I thought I was going to have to explain the 'birds and the bees' (or butterflies) to my 4 year old but, instead this is how we learnt that male Monarch butterflies are territorial.

We had a monarch butterfly chrysalis that had to come inside as the leaf that it was attached to had died and would soon fall from the plant. (This happens quite often when the swan plant is still full of hungry munching caterpillars.)

Today, the butterfly emerged from the chrysalis so, after it had dried its wings enough we popped it outside. (Our baby butterfly was a boy.)

Unfortunately it only took a few minutes before the poor thing had not one but two other male butterflies on top of it. I felt somewhat responsible for the little guy as I was the one who had placed him on the plant. It took me several minutes to pry the other two butterflies from off of our newly emerged hatchling.

I've been growing swan plants and watching the life cycle from caterpillar to butterfly for many years (at least 7 or so) and this was the first time I had seen this happen before.(Maybe I wasn't watching close enough before lol.)

Territorial Monarch Butterflies

It was clear that the males were fighting over something, as the two that I removed from 'our' butterfly carried on fighting with each other in the air. I took our butterfly back inside for a while and then decided that on a sunflower away from the swan plants would have to be a good enough place to rest.

I have observed on multiple occasions before Monarch butterflies 'following' birds. Now I've realized that the butterflies were actually chasing the birds away and as Monarch butterflies are poisonous to animals, the birds have no choice but to comply.

I'm left wondering, if the butterfly had hatched out on the plant if this would still have happened. Or was it because I had introduced it from another source? (Even though the chrysalis was originally from the plant.)

While today's lesson was about the darker side of what is usually known as a gentle creature, it's going to make a great entry in our Kiwi Kids Gardening Journal.

Have you ever witnessed aggressive butterflies before? Tell me your story in the comments.


About the author

Sarah Cooper is the founder of Ecore. She is a strong advocate for supporting other local businesses, with a passion for protecting the environment, gardening and helping families reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals.

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  • Sarah Cooper
Comments 1
  • Sharron Grundy
    Sharron Grundy

    Really interesting article Sarah. A real insight

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