Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
Monarchs Make An Amazing Migration
Monarchs are the only butterflies that make a long migration: the last generation born in late summer and early fall flies up to 3,000 miles from the northeastern U.S. and southern Canada to its wintering grounds in the forested highlands of central Mexico never having been there before!
Monarchs Are Fantastic Flyers
Migrating monarchs travel about 50 miles per day‚ though some have been known to fly as far as 80 miles in a day.
Monarchs Have Spirit
Like clockwork, monarchs return to Mexico each year around the first of November, the Day of the Dead, leading local people to believe that they are the spirits of their deceased ancestors, come back to visit.
Monarchs and Milkweed
Monarchs are dependent for survival on the milkweed plant, which the newly hatched larvae eat almost exclusively.
A monarch caterpillar is striped in orange, black and white, the same colors displayed by the adult butterfly when it emerges from its chrysalis.
A Monarch Mystery
Most monarchs live for just 5 weeks, except for the migrating "Methuselah" generation, which lives for 7 or 8 months. Scientists are still trying to understand the phenomenon fully.
Monarchs Are Big... For a Butterfly
Monarchs are large butterflies, with a wingspan averaging about four inches.
Where Do Monarchs Live?
In addition to North America, monarchs are also found in Australia and New Zealand.
A Symphony of Butterfly Wings
Though an individual monarch weighs only half an ounce, the collective wing movements of hundreds of thousands of them massed together in their wintering grounds sounds like a distinct hum.
Autumn Leaves? Look Again!
When monarchs huddle together for warmth in the fir groves of Mexico's central highlands, they look like a thick cloak of autumn leaves on the trees.
Habitat is Critical
The monarch migration is considered an endangered biological phenomenon. The greatest threat to the butterflies‚ survival is the destruction of the oyamel forests in which they winter, though milkweed habitat loss in the U.S. is having an impact, too.
Not So Savory
Monarchs are poisonous to predators such as frogs, birds, mice and lizards because of chemicals that build up inside them from the milkweed plant that monarchs eat when they are larvae.
WWF's Work with Monarchs