You’re probably no stranger to the Monarch butterfly. In fact, they are one of the most studied species in North America! But what makes them so special?
The monarch butterfly undertakes one of the most impressive migrations of the insect class. Every year, the last generation of Monarchs that hatch from their chrysalides will travel from Canada or the northern United States down to the mountains of central Mexico.
The monarch lifecycle starts with the adult butterfly laying an egg on a milkweed plant. Milkweed is essential to the monarch lifecycle. While the poisonous chemistry of the plant isn’t harmful to caterpillars, it can be deadly for hungry vertebrate predators. Milkweed is the main food source for growing caterpillars, which hatch from their eggs and eat their way through entire plants. After about 10-14 days, monarch caterpillars will form a chrysalis. They will transform into the adult butterfly in another 10-14 days, then hatch from their chrysalis and fly to other milkweed plants looking for food and mates.
Throughout the summer, the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly is 2-5 weeks. However, the last generation to hatch every summer will not mate. Instead, they will migrate between 2,000 and 3,000 miles to central Mexico to overwinter! This is no small feat for the Monarch butterfly, and it takes conservation efforts across the United States, Mexico, and Canada to provide habitat and create awareness of the migration in order to safeguard this species.
Every August, we rear Monarch butterflies in our nature center to spread awareness and educate the public about monarchs and on the ways in which we can help them. Stop by our nature center to see our monarch caterpillars!
On August 28th, we’ll be hosting our Annual Monarch Madness event! This includes a screening of the film Flight of the Butterflies, as well as our monarch tagging event. For $5, you can tag a Monarch butterfly before it makes its journey to central Mexico!
To learn more about Monarch butterflies and their migration, visit the resources below: