13 Facts About Monarch Butterflies in North America

Natural Habitat Adventures October 11, 2021 0

Journey to Mexico’s butterfly sanctuaries and stand among hundreds of millions of monarchs as they complete their remarkable migration.

Each winter, millions of monarch butterflies migrate from southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States to the fir forests of Mexico’s Central Highlands. This migration is considered as one of the most incredible phenomena in the animal kingdom.

Witnessing Mexico’s monarchs in their remote winter roosting sites is a rare opportunity that few travelers have access to. Nat Hab’s all-encompassing Mexico monarch butterfly tour gives you extensive time to walk among the monarchs, take photos, and listen to the air hum with the vibration of their wings.  Here are 13 monarch butterfly facts to know before you go!

1. How far is the monarch butterfly 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!

2. How far can monarch butterflies fly?

Migrating monarchs travel about 50 miles per day‚ though some have been known to fly as far as 80 miles in a day.

3. When do monarch butterflies return to Mexico each year?

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.

4. What do monarch butterflies eat?

Monarchs are dependent for survival on the milkweed plant, which the newly hatched larvae eat almost exclusively.

5. What color is a monarch caterpillar?

A monarch caterpillar is striped in orange, black and white, the same colors displayed by the adult butterfly when it emerges from its chrysalis.

6. How long do monarch butterflies live?

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.

7. How big are monarch butterflies?

Monarchs are large butterflies, with a wingspan averaging about four inches.

8. Where do monarchs live?

In addition to North America, monarchs are also found in Australia and New Zealand.

9. What do monarch butterflies sound like?

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.

10. 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.

11. What are the greatest threats to monarch butterflies?

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.

12. Are monarch butterflies poisonous?

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.

13. WWF’s Work with Monarchs

As autumn approaches each year, a special migratory generation of monarch butterflies is born, which flies from the US & Canada to the forests of central Mexico to spend the winter, breed and fly north again in spring. Logging has fragmented this crucial habitat, threatening their migration. Working with the Mexican government, WWF helped to create the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve to protect this fragile ecosystem.

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