The Monarch Butterfly

The monarch butterfly is the most common species of the milkweed butterflies. The monarch is found throughout the world, especially in North America.

Proper Name

Danaus plexippus from the family Danaidae.


The adult has wings of a striking reddish-brown, with black veins and black borders with two rows of white dots. The wingspread is about 10 centimeters (4 inches).


Each fall the monarch butterfly migrates south to California, Florida, and Mexico.  the longest flight known for a tagged adult is about 2900 kilometers  (about 1800 miles) form Onatrio, Canada to Mexico. The monarch groups congregate or meet at the same places each winter, such as Pacific Grove, California or the mountains in central Mexico where the trees may be completely covered with monarchs!  In the two-year lifetime of most of the butterflies, the individual butterfly makes the trip twice.


The females lay their eggs on the underside of  milkweed leaves. The larvae feed on the milkweed plants and accumulate a poisonous substace that makes them distasteful to birds and other predators.  The birds learn to recognize the butterflies' bright pattern and avoid them.

Interesting Facts:

The record distance travelled by a tagged butterfly is 3,433 kilometers, about as far as from Montreal to Calgary. (If you don't know where these places are make sure you look them up on a map!) And this is a straight line distance.

Monarch travel about 12-18 kilometeres per hour, flapping their wings 5 to 12 times per second!


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