10 Amazing Facts About The Monarch Butterfly

The monarch butterfly is the most beautiful and interesting creature in the insect world, and its migration is a source of fascination for many. How much do you know about them? These 10 facts that will amaze!

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.
  • Report any sightings of Monarchs here. 
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Deborah Tukua

Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.

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Tammi H

I just started raising monarch butterflies this spring in northern Florida where we spend our winters. We spend our summers in northern MI.

I learned of this hobby from a colleague and have been loving it. I have passed on what I have learned to several neighbors and the excitement continues to build. I have shared this love of nature with my daughter and granddaughter as well.

So far this spring I have had two butterflies and I currently have 7 chrysalis waiting to hatch into beautiful monarchs!

I’m learning wasps are a huge predator and have impacted my recent hatching of eggs which has caused me to become a protective mother bear with my chubby little ones. Now they are all moved inside my lanai as they safely prepare to eat, grow, cocoon and emerge as a beautiful monarch. They are then set free to go into the world to keep the cycle moving forward.

I will carry my love of monarchs to MI and keep they cycle going there as well!

The miracle of nature is fascinating!

Gina

My son just sent me a picture. 100 or so butterflies in his tree out in Lee, Il

Richie

Just got Monarch butterfly on my milkweed. The mother gave birth to 12 caterpillars. Now the mother is in pupa stage. I m about to sent a Monarch Butterfly to Mexico again after 7 seven years! Sed my pictures on FB

Jane H.

Aww, didn’t realize they had such a short life span. Also, FTA – ” Sadly, Monarch butterflies are headed to extinction.” They are gorgeous and I hope this does NOT come to pass.

isaac

same

june

that is so cool

Cole Musser

E

dipti

nice

Ethel Nylund

I have not seen very many butterflies this year and no Monarchs.I grow milkweed and try to save the Monarchs but this year there are none.I am in southern Ohio and wonder where all of the butterflies are.

Theresa

I was in Ludington,mi on 9/4. Saw an amazing amount of monarch butterflies. Turns out this is one of there crossing spots of Lake Michigan in September to venture to Mexico. I was amazed at how many there were. Very cool.

june

I know sad right

Dianne Coles

That was an amazing video. We have a large pollinator garden, only for wildflowers.

Catelyn reid

I had taken care of 60 butterflies in the summer time.I did it in the months of june july and let them go after they truned into butterflies

Galilee Stevens

I thought that video was amazing!! The monarch butterfly is awesome!! I’m doing a report on the monarch butterfly and this website helped a lot! thanks!!!

Susan Higgins

Excellent! So glad you enjoyed our content!

june

that was so cool

june

yes it was super cool the thing is that the plants that the butterflies lay their eggs on our disappearing and their forest is to

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