Studies on migration patterns of milkweed butterflies and their feeding habits can help protect them, say researchers

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Source: The post is based on the article Studies on migration patterns of milkweed butterflies and their feeding habits can help protect them, say researchers published in The Hindu on 15th May 2023

What is the News?

Researchers have found that millions of Milkweed butterflies undertake a migration between the Eastern and Western Ghats in southern India, seeking refuge from the harsh summer.

What are Milkweed Butterflies?

Milkweed Butterflies are a diverse group of butterflies belonging to the brush-footed butterfly family (Nymphalidae).

There are some 300 species in the group, including the well-known 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 well-known members of the group, such as the monarch butterfly and the queen butterfly, live in temperate regions.

Characteristics: These butterflies fly slowly, and some, such as the monarch butterfly, migrate great distances.

– They feed chiefly on milkweed plants and sometimes on nightshade. These milkweed plants contain acrid, milky juices that probably make the larva and its subsequent stages distasteful to predators. This, combined with a conspicuous colouration, protects them.

What does the study find about the migration patterns of Milkweed Butterflies?

Between October and April, most of the Milkweed butterflies in the Western Ghats congregate in large numbers at specific sites during winter and dry seasons. When the summer rain cools southern India, the butterflies migrate eastwards into the Eastern Ghats and the plains.

This migration of Milkweed butterflies plays a vital ecological role because as pollinators, their movements can impact entire ecosystems. 

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