Fun Flower Facts

Everything You Need to Know About the Monarch Butterfly

September 26, 2016

If you were asked to draw a butterfly, which colors would you use? Yellow? Blue? Red? Green? While there are a ton of different butterflies out there, one that we’d like to call attention to is the monarch butterfly – this is the beautiful orange and black butterfly that we’re sure you’d recognize if you saw one.

monarch-butterfly

Fun Facts about Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies can be found in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and each winter, they make what could be an up to 3,000 mile trek for migrational purposes – to get specific, those monarchs that live east of the Rocky Mountains typically head to Mexico, and those that live west of these mountains will venture to southern California. This migration typically begins in the fall before the cold winter weather hits, and it can take up to two months to complete.

In addition to their location and migration patterns, here are some other fun facts about monarch butterflies:

  • Only those monarchs that are born during late summer or early fall will participate in the migration, and they only make the trip once.
  • Monarch butterflies have the ability to produce four generations during one summer alone. The first three are known to have a lifespan that lasts anywhere from two to six weeks and the fourth generation is said to live for up to nine months.
  • You can determine if a monarch butterfly is a male or female by looking at their hind wings – males have a black spot at the center of each one, but females do not.
  • A monarch butterfly’s distinct color lets its predators know that it is poisonous.
  • As caterpillars, monarch butterflies rely on milkweed plants as the main component of their diet – milkweed is the reason that monarch butterflies are poisonous to their predators.
  • Climate change is one of the main threats to the survival of monarch butterflies.

Climate Change and Monarch Butterflies

The effects of climate change are one of the biggest threats monarch butterflies are currently facing. For one thing, many predict that climate change will result in colder, wetter winters, which could result in monarchs freezing to death.

A recent article from The World Post also explains that although monarch butterflies had one of their best migrations during the 2015-2016 winter months, the same can’t be said for the forests that they sought out in Central Mexico. As a result of severe storms, many of the trees that monarch butterflies rest on were damaged or destroyed, and some experts suspect that this type of weather will continue to harm their habitats.

How You Can Help

Recognizing that monarch butterflies are in danger, steps are being taken to help prevent them from going extinct. For example, in 2015 President Obama created what is called a “flyway” for monarch butterflies along Interstate 35, which runs from Duluth, Minnesota all the way down to the border between Mexico and Texas. Here, the plan is to add more milkweed so that monarch caterpillars can continue to thrive.

Alongside these efforts (and many more) YOU can help protect monarch butterflies by planting milkweed as well! The Monarch Joint Venture offers several resources that can help you find milkweed seeds and plants in your area, and we sure hope you’ll join the fight to keep monarch butterflies alive!