Rare White Monarch Graces Orion Oaks Park (video)
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Aug. 4, 2021)
Orion Township, MI – Orion Oaks County Park is rich with fields of wildflowers and milkweed plants, and recently a rare creature was spotted fluttering about in this pollinator’s paradise – a white monarch butterfly.
Oakland County Times publisher was near trail marker #5 on Monday when the ghostly beauty flew across the trail – from a shaded area of milkweed into a more open, sunny field – where she was able to get some photos and a video. She captured what she thinks is the same one with her camera again Tuesday morning in the area between #4 and #5, after an hour and a half of looking. The cell phone pictures and video provide a glimpse of the rare creature.
Around the world, there are few, if any, reported white monarchs each year.
Orley “Chip” Taylor is the Executive Director of Monarch Watch, an org that tracks the population and migration of monarchs around the globe.
Taylor told Oakland County Times they only hear about 0-4 a year. He said the recessive trait that causes the pale wings also affects their eyes which impacts feeding and mating. Online research also suggests that predators avoid monarchs because of the bright orange color on their wings. Without the orange color, they may be mistaken for more edible moths. “They’re very difficult to maintain in cultures also,” he said. The exception is on Hawaii’s Island of Oahu, which has a pocket of them due to breeding efforts and fewer predators. A Monarch Watch blog talks more about the creatures, and the history of sightings.
The white monarch is not pure white, but a pale gray with a peach hue color that almost glows ghostly when the sunlight hits the wings just right. The wings seem more opaque than other monarchs as well, adding to the effect. For comparison, we’ve included pictures from the same visits of a viceroy, which is an orange butterfly similar to a monarch, as well as a yellow swallowtail, to show how distinct the difference in color saturation is. This blog by The Butterfly Lady has great side by side pictures that demonstrate the difference.
A spokesperson for Oakland County Parks is looking into whether anyone on staff has seen or heard stories of the beautiful creature, but as of Wednesday they had not heard of any. Those who are enjoying the details of nature are reminded to stay on the trails, as that area of the park is a known habitat of Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes, which are venomous.
This happenstance butterfly encounter comes just two weeks after Oakland County Times shared a story about a rare albino raccoon family in Grand Blanc. Oakland County Times has also shared interesting nature stories such as this video of a curiously fearless mink, a friendly ostrich waving at the Detroit Zoo, video of a hawk hunting in Farmington Hills, and of course the adorable favorite – 2 1/2 minutes of a tiger grooming itself.
For information on visiting Orion Oaks, check out their website at www.oakgov.com. For more Oakland County Times nature stories, check out our Pets and Animals Section and our Explore! Section.
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