The Monarch butterfly has long been a symbol of life, regeneration, and hope. Existing all around the globe, the Monarch is known in Central, North, and South America for the beauty of its annual migration. In order to escape cold conditions that are unlivable for the Monarch, they migrate to warmer climates in California, Florida, and Mexico.
This migration pattern is essential to not only the life cycle of the butterfly, but the success of its role as a pollinator (an insect who carries pollen from one plant to another). Monarchs make a multigenerational journey that requires healthy habitat that milkweed provides, on which monarchs solely lay their eggs. Each new caterpillar must consume milkweed, and after transforming into a butterfly, begins their journey where their parent ended theirs. It is the individual monarch, and the group effort, that enables the monarch to reach their final destination. Like the Monarch, it is the power of the individual and community that can empower positive change.
Eggs are laid on Milkweed plants and take about 4 days to hatch - they can be hard to spot, as they are are only the size of the head of a pin.
2. Larva (Caterpillar)
Caterpillars beef up on Milkweed and prepare for the next stage of their transformation, metamorphosis. This stage lasts about 2 weeks.
3. Pupa (Chrysalis)
The caterpillar develops a hard shell and spends roughly 10 days growing and transforming into its final stage.
4. Adult (Butterfly)
The butterfly emerges from its cocoon transformed into a beautiful being in flight. The Monarch will then spend the remaining 2 to 6 weeks flying from flower to flower pollinating, finding a mate, and laying eggs of their own to start the next generation.
Fun Fact: The scientific name of the Monarch butterfly is Danaus plexippus, which means "sleepy transformation", referring to its amazing life cycle.
Thought it was all about the honey bees, huh? Guess again! Along with other pollinators, the work of the Monarch accounts for 1 out of every 3 bites of food we eat!
Unfortunately for this pollinator, their habitats and migration patterns are in grave danger from the impacts of climate change and limited access to milkweed, the only plant the Monarch can use to lay its eggs. Since 1999, the milkweed population has decreased 40% which has impacted 71% of the Monarch population.
Climate change and deforestation have only increased the threats to this beautiful creature as habitats are scarce and wetter winters have made it far more difficult for the butterfly to track changing conditions. This inability to successfully follow their migration pattern explain part of why the Monarch population has decreased nearly 90% in the last two decades.
But fear not! There is plenty you can do locally to help save the Monarch. Check out our Get Involved page for more information on what you can do to protect this amazing and beautiful pollinator.
Did you know?
Milkweed is what protects the Monarch from predators! The plant itself contains toxins, harmless to the Monarch, but deadly to those looking to snack on one. The Monarch's bright orange coloration is actually a warning to predators to stay away.