Each spring, millions of monarch butterflies return to their summer breeding grounds in the northeastern U.S. and Canada, a trek of some 3,000 miles from Mexico where they went to escape the cold of winter—a migration that’s one of the greatest natural events on Earth.
How much do you know about the monarch butterfly? These 10 facts will amaze!
10 Amazing Facts About The Monarch Butterfly
1) The adult female monarch butterfly lays tiny eggs covered with a sticky substance on the underside of milkweed leaves, which are extremely toxic. The caterpillar hatches from its egg several days later and survives on these milkweed leaves.
2) The monarch caterpillar and adult butterfly retain the poison from the milkweed leaves in its body, thus protecting it from being eaten by predators.
3) Every spring, adult monarch butterflies head north from their winter respite in the southern forests of Mexico and California, and return in the fall—a journey some 2,000-3,000-miles each way!
4) The monarch butterfly will continue to feed, fly, and reproduce throughout the U.S. and southern Canada, for several generations. It is the fourth generation of monarch butterflies that actually migrate to Mexico in fall.
5) Monarch butterflies travel as much as 100 miles a day during its 3,000-mile migration south.
6) During its migration, each butterfly relies on the huge volume of food it ate when it was a caterpillar for fuel.
7) Monarchs smell with their antennae. Nectar and water are tasted by the sensory hairs on their legs and feet.
8) Monarch butterflies cannot bite, and drink through a long tongue called a proboscis that works like an eyedropper drawing up nectar. Like a retractable garden hose, its tongue coils up under its lower lip when not in use.
9) Once the Monarch butterfly is hatched, it only lives for approximately 2–6 weeks.
10) The monarch butterfly’s bright colors serve as a warning to predators that they are poisonous, and they should attack at their own risk! Monarchs not only taste bad, but they are poisonous due to the presence of cardenolides (a type of steroid) in their bodies, which the caterpillars get from the milkweed they feed on.
What Does Folklore Say About The Monarch Butterfly?
According to folklore, “early migration of the Monarch butterfly” is one of the 20 signs of a hard winter ahead!
What Can We Do to Help the Monarch Butterfly Thrive?
Sadly, monarch butterflies are headed to extinction. To save them, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Federation, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation are working together to grow milkweed and other butterfly-friendly plants along the monarch’s main migration route from Minnesota to Mexico.
We can help too. Here’s how:
- Establish a wildflower garden in your yard for pollinators like the monarch butterfly and honey bee.
- Ask your local government and garden clubs to work together to establish pollinator wildflower gardens in city parks, etc.
- Encourage local farmers to designate space along fence rows, and in ditches for native wildflowers to thrive, without the use of chemical sprays.
- Plant milkweed in your yard, or field.
- Plant native wildflowers along your driveway and fencing.
- Don’t spray chemical herbicides on your lawn, garden, or fields.
- If your local electric authority sprays chemical herbicides under power lines on your property, contact them, complain and ask to be placed on the no-spray list.
- Buy a butterfly kit. Encourage your children to experience, and appreciate the life cycle of the butterfly, first hand.
Join The Discussion!
Do you love monarch butterflies?
What questions do you have about them?
When was the last time you saw a monarch butterfly?
Please post any of your photos here!
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Pearls of Garden Wisdom: Time-Saving Tips and Techniques from a Country Home, Pearls of Country Wisdom: Hints from a Small Town on Keeping Garden and Home, and Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. Tukua has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.