Bug of Week 18: Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies are one of the most easily recognizable butterflies, because of their orange bodies and black stripes and spots. Each year, monarchs around North America complete an impressive migration. They travel 1200-2800 miles to central Mexico to hibernate in a milder climate, which gives them a greater chance at survival. In recent years, their habitat has been threatened by pesticide use, deforestation, and climate change. The number of overwintering monarchs has fallen 80% since the 1990s. Click here to learn more about how you can help save the monarch butterfly.

Please be gentle and respectful to all animals and insects.

Species Danaus plexippus

HABITAT (WHERE THEY LIVE): In the spring and summer, monarchs can be found throughout the US in open fields and meadows. In the winter they migrate to southern California and Mexico.

NUTRITION (WHAT THEY EAT):  Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. The butterflies feed on flower nectar.

PREDATORS (WHO EATS THEM): By eating so much milkweed, monarchs have a chemical in their bodies that makes them unappetizing to most predators. Despite this, some types of birds such as grosbeaks and orioles are able to prey on monarchs without being poisoned.

LIFE CYCLE: The monarch begins its life as an egg on the underside of a milkweed leaf. The eggs hatch into a black, white, and yellow striped caterpillar that spends most of its time eating milkweed and growing bigger and bigger. After some time, the monarch caterpillar finds a safe place and hangs upside down in a "J" shape, forming a chrysalis around itself. Eventually it emerges as a beautiful adult butterfly.