The Queen butterfly is common across much of Texas and can even be found year round in southern Texas. Like the Monarch, the lovely Queen is considered a “milkweed” butterfly — they lay their eggs, one-by-one, on various milkweed plants. As they hatch, caterpillars eat the milkweed leaves which contain poisonous sugars, known as cardiac (heart) glycosides (sugars). While the poisons do not affect the caterpillar they do make for a nasty surprise for potential predators. Even when the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, some of these sugars remain in their bodies. One taste is enough for predators to learn to avoid these caterpillars and butterflies.
Notice the black markers covering a scent patch on the hind wings on the butterfly above. This indicates that it is a male.
Carbon-dated fossils show that milkweed butterflies, like the Queen and the Monarch, have been around for over 20 million years!
A combination of milkweeds for the caterpillars and sweet nectar flowers for the adults is the basis for the butterfly nursery the nature center is designing and building.