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The Wandering Monarch

from Things To See In Springtime





Did you ever read the old Greek story of Ulysses, King of Ithaca, the Wandering Monarch, who for twenty years roamed over sea and land away from home—always trying to get back, but doomed to keep on travelling, homesick and weary, but still moving on; until his name became a byword for wandering?


MONARCH BUTTERFLY 'The Wanderer' in Three Stages: Cocoon, Caterpillar,  and Butterfly MONARCH BUTTERFLY

"The Wanderer" in Three Stages: Cocoon, Caterpillar, and Butterfly

In our own woods and our own fields in America we have a Wandering Monarch—the "Big Red Butterfly" as we children called it—the "Monarch" as it is named by the butterfly catchers.


It is called the "Wanderer" chiefly because it is the only one of our Butterflies that migrates like the birds. In the late summer it gathers in great swarms when the bright days are waning, and flies away to warmer lands. I have often seen it going, yet I do not remember that I ever saw it come back in the springtime; but it comes, though not in great flocks like those that went south.


One of the common names of this splendid creature is "Milkweed Butterfly" because its grub or caterpillar is fond of feeding on the leaves of the common milkweed.


The drawing shows the size and style of the grub; in colour it is yellow or yellowish green with black bands.


As soon as it is grown big enough and fat enough, the grub hangs itself up as a "chrysalis" which is a Greek word that may be freely rendered into "golden jewel." The middle drawing shows its shape; in colour it is of a pale green with spots of gold, or as it has been described "a green house with golden nails."


After about two weeks the great change takes place, and the bundle-baby or chrysalis opens to let out the splendid red-brown Butterfly, of nearly the same red as a Cock Robin's breast in springtime, with lines and embroidery of black and its border set with pearls. Near the middle of the hind wing is a dark spot like a thickening of one rib. This has been called a "sachet bag" or "scent-pocket," and though not very ornamental to look at, is of more use to it than the most beautiful white pearl of the border. For this is the battery of its wireless telegraph. We think our ships and aeroplanes very far advanced because they can signal miles away, and yet the Wandering Monarch had an outfit for sending messages long before it was ever dreamed of by man. Maybe it is not a very strong battery, but it certainly reaches for miles; and maybe its messages are not very clear, but they serve at least to let the Monarchs know where their wives are, and how to find them, which is something.


There is one other reason for calling this the Wanderer. Although it is an American by birth, it has travelled to England and the Philippines and is ever going farther over the world till at last no doubt it will have seen all lands and possessed them.


It makes old Ulysses look like a very stay-at-home, for his farthest travels never went beyond the blue Mediterranean, and his whole twenty years of voyaging covered less than the states east of the Mississippi—much less than our Red Wanderer covers in a single summer.







Next: The Bells Of The Solomon Seal

Previous: The Mourning-cloak Butterfly Or The Camberwell Beauty



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