We were in the yard a few days ago, when we saw two lovely monarch butterflies engaged in a courtship ritual, on the grass. I recorded a video which you can see below.
Watch video on YouTube | blip.tv
According to science, what I filmed is the ground phase of their mating, and is preceded by an aerial phase, where the male will pursue and nudge the female, until she lands on the ground. He then lands on top of her and flits his wings wildly while he aligns himself alongside her body. Once he does that, he grabs her, and flies with her to a perching spot, where they sit end to end for about 30 minutes, while a spermatophore from the male transfers to the female.
The mating of the monarch butterflies occurs just prior to their re-migration back north. The eggs are not laid by the female until she reaches a suitable location there with plenty of food sources, such as milkweed.
As I write this, I remember that I’ve witnessed another stage of the monarch butterflies’ life when camping in the Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia, in September of 2006. It was there that I saw the caterpillars building their pupa, or chrysalis, and took photos of that.