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Monarch Butterfly

Fun Facts

Monarch butterflies migrate 3000 miles from Mexico to Canada through
New York City twice a year. No other butterfly travels that far. They know their way as if
they have a compass. In Spring Monarch butterflies leave Mexico to fly through New
York City. In Autumn another generation of Monarchs fly from New York City back to
Mexico. Shockingly, 95% of the Monarch butterfly population has disappeared in the
past two decades due to habitat loss. Monarchs lay their caterpillar eggs on the host
plant, the milkweed plant. Caterpillars eat the leaves. The Monarch butterfly can lay
about 250 eggs per day, one at a time. And adult butterflies drink nectar from the
milkweed flower for energy. Autumn Monarch butterflies are behaviorally and
biologically different than earlier short lived generations, and live seven to nine months
overwintering in Mexico We have two chances to see them if
we plant milkweed! See more at:

Do you see two black dots
on my lower orange hindwings?
Those are my scent glands.
That means I am a boy!

Females are larger and have thicker lines than
males. Do you see my thick black vein lines
on my orange wings? That means I am a girl!

Humans have a tongue, but butterflies have a

proboscis. An elephants trunk is also called a
proboscis. In butterflies, a proboscis is like a straw
to feed and has a sharp tip to pierce fruit.
Photo credit: "Proboscis" by Donna Adamski

Common milkweed - Asclepias Syriaca

Monarch butterflies depends on the common

milkweed plant. It is the only plant it will lay
eggs on. Monarch caterpillars eat the milkweed
plant so it is called a host plant. Milkweed
flowers are a source of nectar for butterflies.

Monarch butterfly egg

Monarch butterfly females lay their
small white eggs on milkweed plants.
As few as 1 in 100 eggs survive.

Monarch butterfly caterpillar
Butterfly eggs hatch as caterpillars.

Monarch butterfly caterpillar transformation into a pupa

A Monarch butterfly caterpillar will become a

chrysalis which is a pupa.

Cocoon means a pupa with a silk covering,

mostly moths have cocoons.

Monarch butterfly coming out of a chrysalis

A Monarch butterfly will emerge from a

chrysalis. It takes 3 to 4 hours for the wings to
dry and then the butterfly can fly.

Butterflies like mud puddles, they get nutrients
like salt and minerals from mud. The behavior is
called puddling and mostly males do it.


Differences Between Butterflies and Moths (exceptions exist)





rounded clubs on the


thin or often feathery


thin and smooth

thick and fuzzy


during the day

during the night




Pupal Stage




held vertically when


held flat against body when


Grid from -

Resources from Carol Pasternaks book How To Raise Monarch Butterflies:


Special thanks to Chrissy Word, Butterfly Project, A Program of the Open Space Institute.