Effects of duration and timing of heat stress on Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) development

Heather A. York, Karen S. Oberhauser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Exposure to temperatures above 29°C has been shown to be detrimental to the development of Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus L.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) larvae, while it has been assumed that temperatures above 33° are lethal. However, the details of larval sensitivity to high temperatures are not clearly understood. We examined the effects of different lengths and timing of high-temperature exposure on larval and pupal mortality, development time, and adult mass. The experimental high temperature was 36°, while 27° was the moderate temperature at which individuals were kept when not exposed to the high temperature. In three experiments, larvae and pupae were subjected either to constant exposure to 36° initiated at various developmental stages or to fluctuating temperatures (daily high-temperature pulses of 6 or 12 hours) throughout development. In general, we found that increasing lengths of constant exposure resulted in increasingly higher mortality, longer development time, and lighter adult mass, while daily temperature fluctuations resulted in very little mortality and shorter development times. Mortality, development time, and adult size were affected differently by the initiation of high-temperature treatment at the various stages of development. Because faster development is likely to be beneficial to Monarchs, certain high-temperature regimes that allow for shortened time to adulthood may not be as detrimental to larvae and pupae as previously was assumed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-298
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Kansas Entomological Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2002


  • Danaus plexippus
  • Heat stress
  • Larval development
  • Monarch Butterfly
  • Thermoperiod

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