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Monarch Wings Over Time
Monarch Butterfly Wings
Judy Front
  Monarch Butterfly Wings
Chuck Patterson

  Monarch Butterfly Wings
Kathy Metzger
New and Fresh
When a monarch emerges from its chrysalis, it's born with vivid orange wings in pristine condition.
Old and Worn
Wings that begin as fresh as a flower become dull, tattered, and torn over time. What happens?
Rough Encounters
Over the course of a butterfly's life, its wings can be scratched by thorns, bristles, branches, grasses or anything sharp it encounters.

     
Monarch Butterfly Wings
Chuck Patterson
Monarch Butterfly Wings
Dr. Lincoln P. Brower
Monarch Butterfly WingsSusan Sommer

Weather Wear
Wings can be damaged by wind, hail, snow, or rain. This female's forewings were tattered in a storm. The wind may have tossed her around or she may have been struck by flying debris.
Narrow Escapes
Sometimes the tears or scratches on a wing show evidence of a predator. The V-shaped scratch on this female's hind wing was likely made by the beak of a bird.
Sticky Situations
A butterfly may escape a spider's web but its wings may be damaged by the struggle. The sticky silk threads can remain clinging, too.

     
Monarch Butterfly Wings
Debra Hendricks
Magnified Monarch Butterfly Wings
Raul Gonzalez
Monarch Butterfly Wings
Anita Brisco
Losing Color
After many scrapes, scratches, nicks, and tears, a monarch no longer appears bright orange.

Magnified Wing
The surface of a monarch's wing is covered with thousands of tiny, flat, colorful scales. As the monarch loses these scales, it loses its color.
Losing Scales
As the scales are scraped off, the clear, paper-thin wing underneath becomes visible.

     
Monarch Butterfly Wings
Harlen Aschen
Monarch Butterfly Wings
K.A. Stilwell
Monarch Butterfly Wings
Chuck Patterson

Wings Show Age
The color and condition of a monarch's wings reveal its age. The young butterfly is vividly colored. The light-colored monarch is 7 months old and has lost most of its scales.

Final Flights
By April, monarchs of the overwintering generation from Mexico have only a few weeks to live. The worn-winged butterflies are no longer their brilliant orange.

A New Generation
By May, a new generation of monarchs emerges. On fresh wings, these butterflies will complete the spring migration.