Here in the Mid-Atlantic of the United States, the annual Monarch butterfly migration is at its peak this weekend. Monarchs belong to the order of insects known as lepideptera in the family nymphalidae. Although these butterflies (also known as milkweed butterflies) are fairly widespread, living all over North, Central and parts of South America, as well as Australia and New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and several Atlantic islands, they don’t typically live in Europe. Monarchs are perhaps the most famous of all the thousands of varieties of American butterflies, but did not get their name until 1874. The word monarch came to English in the 14th century from The French monarque. It is possible that it came directly from Late Latin monarcha which ultimately came from the Ancient Greek word monarkhes meaning one who rules alone. The name Monarch was first used by Samuel H. Scudder in 1874 because as he said, “it is one of the largest of our butterflies, and rules a vast domain.” Some, however, suggest the name may have been given in honour of King William III of England.
Video of monarchs overwintering after migration courtesy The Seventh Movement.