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About Milkweed Butterflies


A recent study by a team of researchers shed light on the migration patterns of Milkweed butterflies in southern India.


GS III: Species in News

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Milkweed butterflies
  2. What is a brush-footed butterfly?

About Milkweed butterflies

Milkweed butterflies are a diverse group of butterflies belonging to the brush-footed butterfly family (Nymphalidae). Here are some key points about milkweed butterflies:

  • Diversity: There are approximately 300 species of milkweed butterflies, including the well-known and iconic Monarch butterfly.
  • Distribution: Most milkweed butterfly species are found in the tropical regions of both the Old World (Europe, Africa, and Asia) and the New World (North America, South America, and the Caribbean). However, some species, such as the monarch butterfly and the queen butterfly, can also be found in temperate regions.
  • Appearance: Adult milkweed butterflies are typically large and exhibit vibrant colors. Their wings are usually long, with brownish or orange hues and distinctive black-and-white patterns.
  • Flight and Migration: Milkweed butterflies have a slow flight pattern. Some species, like the monarch butterfly, undertake remarkable long-distance migrations to reach their breeding or overwintering grounds.
  • Feeding Habits: Milkweed butterflies primarily feed on milkweed plants, which give them their name. They may also occasionally feed on nightshade plants. Milkweed plants contain acrid and milky juices that make the larvae and subsequent stages of milkweed butterflies unappetizing to predators. The combination of these distasteful characteristics and their conspicuous coloration serves as a defense mechanism to protect them.

What is a brush-footed butterfly?

A brush-footed butterfly is a type of butterfly belonging to the family Nymphalidae. Here are some characteristics of brush-footed butterflies:

  • Family: Brush-footed butterflies are a large family of butterflies known scientifically as Nymphalidae. It is one of the largest butterfly families, consisting of diverse species worldwide.
  • Legs: Brush-footed butterflies derive their name from their unique forelegs. The forelegs are reduced in size and covered in fine hairs, giving them a brush-like appearance. These specialized legs are used for various functions, including perching and tasting.
  • Wing Structure: The wings of brush-footed butterflies are typically large and broad, with rounded edges. They are often marked with intricate patterns and vibrant colors, which vary among species.
  • Behavior: Brush-footed butterflies are known for their characteristic behavior of perching with their forelegs folded up, giving the impression of having only four functional legs. This behavior distinguishes them from other butterfly families.
  • Feeding Habits: Many brush-footed butterflies feed on flower nectar using their long proboscis, a tubular mouthpart. They play a crucial role in pollination by transferring pollen from one flower to another.
  • Ecological Importance: Brush-footed butterflies have diverse ecological roles. Some species engage in long-distance migrations, while others form mutualistic relationships with specific host plants or exhibit mimicry to deter predators.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024