Monarch butterfly aberrations are sometimes wonderful and sometimes deadly. The ones that we find interesting are the ones that are caused by recessive genes.
One of the delightful benefits of raising thousands of Monarch butterflies per month is that we are able to see unusual butterflies that would, in nature, not live long enough to be found by a human.
#1. Bhavna brings in caterpillars from her garden. In the summer of 2015, many emerged with their wing colors much lighter than normal. They are close to the color of White Monarchs, primarily found in Hawaii, although they are found on the mainland US as well. Bhavna’s Monarchs had lavender/purple eyes. She raised dozens of these light Monarchs from wild caterpillars. Sharing with others who paired the white with white as well as white with normal, the color was proven to be caused by a recessive gene.
#2. Jacob Groth of Swallowtail Farms, in CA, discovered this type of aberration in his Monarchs in 2006. In 2010, over 2,000 miles away, we discovered the same recessive gene in some Monarchs we were raising at Shady Oak Butterfly Farm. Since then, we have seen images of the same aberration in butterflies raised from wild caterpillars brought in by enthusiasts from their gardens.
#3. Unusual merging of white dots on the outer edge of Monarch wings create an unusual pattern in about 15 Monarch butterflies one summer at Shady Oak Butterfly Farm.
#4. These white scaled Monarchs are not the white Monarchs of Hawaii. They emerged from our stock one year at Shady Oak Butterfly Farm. Scales on the head, body, and wings are totally white. Most of these butterflies emerged with wings so crumpled that they could not fly. Only about 2 or 3 had perfect wings. Pairing a white and a white resulted in 100% white offspring, proving that the color was from a recessive gene. We shipped some of their eggs to Dr. Chip Taylor who also raised them for a generation. He wrote back later that it was a ‘fatal gene’ because too many of the offspring would not live in the wild. The white gene was linked to a gene that somehow resulted in severe wing crippling.
#5. Jodi Hopper, of Wish Upon a Butterfly, had a few from her stock of Monarch caterpillars pupate into yellow chrysalies. She was surprised to see healthy Monarch butterflies emerging from yellow chrysalises. Jodi shipped some of the eggs to us and we raised them for several years. Some of the eggs were also shipped to Dr. Chip Taylor. The adults looked totally normal. When damaged, green chrysalises bled normal green hemolymph. Yellow chrysalises bled yellow hemolymph. Where there should have been green, there was only yellow. When a yellow was bred with a yellow, all offspring pupated into yellow chrysalises. This clearly indicates that it is clearly a recessive gene. It is interesting because the Plain Tiger Danaus chrysippus has green, pink, and yellow chrysalises. To see a photo of the colors of the Plain Tiger chrysalises, click on this linked sentence.
#6. From time to time, extra white scales show up on wings of Monarch butterflies. This is one that we emerged many years ago at the farm from our stock.