The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is the best-known butterfly in North America, because of its unique migration pattern. It makes its way down from Canada and across the United States to spend the winter months in Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America.
But this isn’t the only reason why people are fascinated by this beautiful insect.
The monarch butterfly also has some other amazing qualities that make it stand out from the rest! Learn more about this distinctive butterfly below!
Facts About Monarch Butterflies
Monarch butterflies are often seen as a symbol of transformation and transition because they travel such long distances to their wintering grounds.
They migrate thousands of miles from all over North America to just a few places in Mexico where they roost together until spring arrives and it’s time for them to return to their summer grounds.
The monarch butterfly migration is one of nature’s most impressive feats.
Thousands upon thousands fly south across North America during fall to find warm weather and flowers that will support them through winter months. The migration usually takes place during September through November, depending on your region’s temperatures.
In order to understand how monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles from summer homes in Canada and northeastern United States to winter homes in central Mexico—and then back again—we have to look at a few things.
First is a phenomena called Danaus plexippus, which is otherwise known as monarch migration.
There are several theories about why they make such a long trek every year, but most people think it’s due to population pressure. In years when food sources are more limited their population numbers fall as well.
The same is true with mating partners: as numbers dwindle they have less chance of finding someone else with whom to mate.
Where Do Monarchs Live?
Monarchs live throughout North America. However, they aren’t considered year-round residents of any one area; they make several annual migrations and may reside in a wide variety of habitats during their lifetimes. Some stay within 300 miles of where they were born.
Others travel as far as 2,000 miles or more before settling down for good.
How Long Do Monarchs Live?
How long do monarch butterflies live? It depends on a variety of factors including their origin and life stage.
For example, some monarchs have been known to live as long as 8 months during their winter hibernation period while others don’t survive past a few weeks. More often than not though, monarchs only live a few weeks as adults.
As caterpillars however, they can live for up to 9 months! Monarchs begin entering into hibernation around mid-October where they’ll enter diapause, a sort of suspended animation during which their metabolism significantly slows down.
What Is the Lifecycle of Monarch Butterflies?
Monarch butterflies complete a life cycle of four to five weeks, which typically runs from early August through late October.
There are three distinct stages: egg, caterpillar and chrysalis (or pupae).
The adult stage is called a butterfly or imago. This phase only lasts about two to six weeks in much of North America. During that time, Monarch butterflies mate and lay eggs for next year’s generation.
They die soon after laying their final eggs or when winter arrives if they over-winter as adults.
Their species name (Danaus plexippus) comes from their trait of having markings on both sides of their wings—the word plexippus also means having either side painted.