How Does Basking Warm a Butterfly?
Intro | Experiment | Article | Journal

Paralyzed by Cold
Cold temperatures paralyze monarchs. Their flight muscles must be at least 55°F (13°C) in order to fly.

Warming Up
Monarchs can warm up by basking in the sun. Basking helps a monarch raise its muscle temperatures to flight threshold.

Catching Rays
When monarchs bask they open their wings and tilt them toward the sun. Like solar panels, monarchs capture the sun's energy by exposing the surface area of their wings directly to the sun.

Color of Wings
Dark colors absorb more of the sun's energy than light colors do. The absorbed solar energy is changed to heat energy. The monarch's dark-colored wings are an important adaptation for survival. They help a monarch warm up on a cold day.

Basking Butterflies
Observers have described the basking behavior they've witnessed as follows:

"It was cold, rainy, and windy for several days. Today, the sun came out and the monarchs were all sunning themselves on the trees around 7:30 a.m. When I went back outside around 1 p.m. it was a ghost town! They were all gone except one!" Jane Marshall

"You can tell it was a cool morning when I took this picture. The monarchs were all holding their wings at the same angle, catching the rays of the sun. The overnight temperature was only 47°F. The monarchs needed to warm their muscles before they could continue fall migration." Tom Nagel



Temperatures and monarch butterfly
Image Ted Wilcox
Temperatures and monarch butterfly
Image Wikipedia
Temperatures and monarch butterfly
Image Jane Marshall
Temperatures and monarch butterfly
Image Tom Nagel


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