The KING of Butterflies – The MONARCH

(Danaus plexippus: Greek for – Sleepy Tranformation)

Male Monarch Female Monarch
Fig. 1 Fig. 2

Monarch butterflies are the most beautiful of all butterflies and are considered the “KING” of the butterflies, hence the name “Monarch”. There are lots of very cool things to learn about the monarch butterfly and we’ll try to get through most of them here. The Monarch belongs to the Animal kingdom as part of the Insect class.  There are 3 types of Monarch butterflies and six subspecies.  (Refer to the sections at the bottom of the page).

Many have wondered, — what is the obvious telltale difference between a Male and a Female Monarch?  The most prominent sign, are 2 black circular markings on the lower inner wings.  See Fig.1 above and note where the arrow is pointing.  Another, not so obvious, factor is the differences in their abdomens.  Females have a notch at the tail end of their abdomens, the males do not. The rest of their anatomy is the same including the stained glass markings on their wings.

Why are Monarchs so important?  Several reasons:

  1. They are great pollinators as they travel the continent.
  2. Scientifically, Monarchs have been used, for centuries, to investigate many areas of biological research in fields of navigation, pest control, embryology, mimicry, evolution, genetics, population dynamics and biodiversity conservation.
  3. Monarchs, as well as other butterflies, are great indicators of a healthy environment and stable ecosystem. 
  4. They are a part of our heritage.
  5. People enjoy seeing Monarchs in their homes and in the countryside.
  6. They are intrinsically valuable and worthy of conservation in their own right.

The Monarch cycles through 4 generations in one calendar year.  It is the 4th generation that begins the 1st generation and is the most unique generation out of all the other 3 generations.

This 4th generation of Monarchs was born in the Fall of the northern parts of the United States and southern parts of Canada.  Their main purpose before overwintering (hibernation) is to drink from the nectar of many plants in order to endure the long journey south where they will overwinter for 4-5 months.

There are some fascinating and unique factors about the 4th generation of Monarchs.

  1. They will live about 8 months whereas the other 3 generations only live 2 to 6 weeks.
  2. The 4th generation is not sexually active or ready until after their migration south and not until after they have overwintered; whereas, the other 3 generations are ready 4-5 days after birth.
  3. Another unique factor is that the 4th generation of Monarchs do not reproduce right away whereas the other 3 generation start reproducing 2 weeks after birth.  It is not until the 4rth generation has begun migrating after overwintering, (some 6-8 months after they are born) that they begin to reproduce.
  4. Lastly, and the most unique and mysterious factor of the 4rth generations of Monarchs is their ability to migrate south having never flown the trek to and from beforehand. Monarchs cannot tolerate cold climates and fly to warmer regions of the Untied States.  Most go to southern  Mexico, and those in the upper western region of the United States fly to the west coast of California.  This flight begins September, October, and November, starting with southern Canada first. Adversely, Monarchs cannot tolerate hot dry weather and therefore migrate northeast or  north to cooler climates

The 4 Generations

We need to start with the 4th generation.  Once the 4rth generation of Monarchs fly south, they will enter their overwintering phase for 4 to 5 months. After overwintering ends, they will awake, find water, mate, and then begin flying north to find food (nectar), mate (if not already done earlier) and lay eggs.  When Monarchs mate, the male latches onto the female for hours, sometimes up to a full day, Fig.6.  They continue their trek north to the southern parts of the United States. Those in California will fly easterly remaining on the western parts of the continent.

Once they arrive in the southern states or the mid western states, they will lay hundreds of eggs wither singularly or in groupings on the underside of Milkweed leaves, Fig. 9.  After a long journey to Mexico, a long hibernation and a flight north to lay eggs, many Monarchs arrive in the south all tattered and torn. See image on right.   They are nearing the end of their life and their eggs will begin the 1st generation of Monarchs.   

Note their migratory patterns in Fig. 3, Fig. 4, and Fig.5, below.

4th generation lays eggs 1st generation is born and fly north

Fig. 3



Total US Monarch Migration Monarchs Mating

Fig. 5

Generation 1: (late April to early June)

The children of the previous 4th generation.

The 4th generation begins the 1st generation. After a long 4-5 month period of overwintering, the 4th generation awakes, and the first thing it does is find water!!  Afterwards, it mates.  The males literally pluck the females off the leaves and join together in a mating ritual that can last up to a day, Fig.6.  The monarchs then fly north, heading to a place they’ve never been.  Their only map imprinted upon their genes.  A great video released by National Geographic can be visited at this link:  Great Migrations.

Along the way they find nectar and continue to mate.  They then begin the task of laying eggs while heading north. This marks the 1st generation. The Monarch lay eggs on only one kind of plant, Fig.9.  The Asclepias, commonly known as the Milkweed, Fig.7 and Fig.8.  The reason being is because the resulting caterpillar only eats the leaves from Milkweeds whereas the adult butterfly will drink from the nectar on the flowering portions of milkweed and other plants. There are a few varieties of this genus family.  A listing of various milkweed plants can be found at this link: Wikipedia: Asclepias.  Below are many varieties found in the US, Fig.7 thru Fig.13.

The monarch butterfly is such a beautiful flying insect that one would not think it poisonous!   The bright colors on its body are so clearly visible that we feel they can easily attract the predators, but in contrast, this color helps the predators to distinguish the Monarchs from the other butterflies. It is because of the Monarch’s lovely vibrant orange appearance, that predators avoid eating them. The poison stored in the Monarchs wings is acquired from the poison toxins found the milkweed leaves called cardiac glycosides.  Studies say, the foul taste of Monarch keeps the predators away and the bright color is a warning to the predators about the poisonous characteristic of Monarchs

When growing Milkweed, it is important to buy the right type of Milkweed for your regions.  

We have provided resources for determining the type of Milkweed needed for your area. 

Click Map to Enlarge (on right)

Use the map on the right to determine which Milkweed plant would be best suitable to grow in your area.

A listing of locations for particular Milkweed plants are listed within the regions below. 


Fig. 7
Midwest & Northeast: Asclepias Tuberosa
These two regions are combined since they share the same milkweed species although the need for seeds and plugs varies by ecoregion. These regions represent the main summer breeding areas for monarchs in the eastern United States. The main monarch host plant is Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed). Other species used by monarchs, in order of their abundance and preference, are A. incarnata (swamp milkweed), A. tuberosa (butterflyweed), A. verticillata (whorled milkweed), and A. exaltata (poke milkweed).

Midwest Ecoregions include: 212, 222, and 251
Northeast Ecoregions include: 212 (east of Lake Huron), M212, 221 & M221

Fig. 8
Southeast  Asclepias Ordefolia
The Southeast includes all states south of the 36th parallel, and westward from the Atlantic seaboard to the 95th meridian in eastern Oklahoma (NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, LA, AR, TN). The milkweeds used by monarchs include A. syriaca and A. exaltata (higher elevations from NC to northern GA), A. incarnata, A. tuberosa, A. humistrata (ecoregion 232 but mostly FL), A. perennis (ecoregions 232 and 234). The most widespread and easiest milkweeds to grow in this region are, A. tuberosa (butterfly weed), A. incar- nata (swamp milkweed). A. viridis (green antelopehorn) occurs west of the Mississippi in AR and LA. A. verticillata occurs in FL and parts of NC. In the southern portion of the region, A. variegata (white milkweed) is highly sought after for its appearance and behavior. A. perennis (aquatic milkweed) occurs only in hydrated soils. A. humistrata (sandhill/pinewoods milkweed) is recommended for some regions of Florida. 

Southeast Ecoregions include: M222, 231, M231, 232, 234, & 411

.Fig. 9
South Central Asclepias Incarnata
The South Central region includes Texas and Oklahoma (exclusive of West Texas). The main monarch host plants in this region are A. viridis (green antelope horn milkweed), A. asperula (antelope horn milkweed), A. latifolia (broadleaf milkweed) and A. oenotheroides (Zizotes milkweed). A. incarnata (swamp milkweed) which is mostly limited to river bottoms and A. tuberosa (butterfly weed) which can be found along roadsides and in some grasslands are also used by monarchs. South and West Texas are home to numerous milkweed species but their use by monarchs is not well documented.

South Central Ecoregions include: 255, 315, 311, 251, 331, and 332.

Fig. 10
West (Intermountain and Pacific Northwest  Asclepias Speciosa
The west region covers the area west of the 100th meridian except West TX, AZ, NM, NV, and CA. Asclepias speciosa (showy milkweed) occurs in all the western states and is the top choice for restoration in this region with A. latifolia (broadleaf milkweed) a second choice.

West Ecoregions include: 331, 332, 341, 342 and numerous smaller ecoregions related to terrain and rainfall.

.Fig. 11 
The Southwest region includes Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and West Texas. A. speciosa occurs at the higher elevations in each of these states (except West TX) and is a good choice for restoration at these higher eleva- tions. At lower elevations species adapted to more xeric conditions such as A. subulata, A. angustifolia, A. linaria, and A. subverticillata, A. englemanniania are used by monarchs. A. tuberosa which can be found at intermediate elevations is also used as a host. A. subverticillata has been associated with livestock poisonings and should not be used for restoration in areas used by grazing animals. Based on the preferences by monarchs and their poten- tial for restoration, we recommend the collecting of seeds and propagation of A. angustifolia (Arizona milkweed), A. subulata (rush milkweed), A. asperula (antelope horn/spider milkweed), and A. tuberosa (butterfly weed, the yellow-flowered western biotype). In addition, A. fascicularis (Mexican whorled/narrowleaf milkweed) can be used to restore monarch habitat in portions of Nevada where this plant is native.

Southwest Ecoregions include: 313, M313, 321 & 322

Fig. 12
California is the center of the distributions for six milkweed species used by monarchs; A. fascicularis (Mexican whorled/narrowleaf milkweed), A. erosa (desert milkweed), A. californica (California milkweed), A. cordifo- lia (heartleaf milkweed), A. eriocarpa (woolypod milkweed) and A. vestita (woolly milkweed). Of these, A. fascicularis is the most widespread and widely used by monarchs. A. speciosa is used as a host in the northern half of the state. Each species has a unique distribution within California and restoration efforts should target counties in which these species are known to occur. Seed is available for A. fascicularis and to a lesser extent for A. speciosa but is scarce to non-existent for the other species.

California Ecoregions include: 242, M242, 261, M261, 262, M262, 263



The life cycle of the butterfly is in 4 stages.

First Stage: The Egg. This is a protected hard shell called the Chorion.  The inside of the shell is lined with a layer of wax to keep the shell from drying out.  The eggs are laid on the underside of the Milkweed leaves very close together, Fig.14. They are usually lain individually on the underside of one leaf and/or in small groupings sometimes sporadically.   As females lay their eggs, they secrete a small amount of glue to keep their eggs attached to the leaves. Monarch can lay 330-500 eggs over 2 to 5 weeks. 

Second Stage:  The Larva:  In about 4 to 5 days, the eggs hatch out to a caterpillar, Fig.15.  It’s first meal is the shell it came from.  From that time on the baby caterpillar doesn’t do much but eat the leaves of the milkweed plant in order to grow. Caterpillars are subject to predators such as ants, spiders, and the like.  Less than 1% of all eggs and caterpillars will survive to become Monarchs.  

First Stage:  The Egg Second Stage:  The Larva (Caterpillar)
Fig. 14 Fig.15

Larvae parts: Fig. 11

  • 3 body parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen.
  • Head: the has a pair of short antennae, mouthparts and 6 pairs of simple eyes.
  • Antennae: help to guide the caterpillar around.
  • Mouthparts: has 3 parts, upper lip, mandible, and lower lip.
  • Maxillary palps:  sensory organs that help direct food to it’s mouth
  • Spinneret:  used to create silk to anchor the caterpillar when needed.
  • Spiracles:  holes in the sides of their thorax and abdomen through which oxygen is transported to their air tubes.
  • Tracheae:  air tubes that carry oxygen throughout the body.
  • Legs: Prolegs and true legs

The head capsule is the first part of the old skin to come off during the molting process. Then the old skin peels back from the front of the caterpillar. At first, the new skin is very soft, and provides little support or protection. This new skin soon hardens and molds itself to the caterpillar.

The shed skin is often eaten before the caterpillar ingests more plant food! The intervals between molts are called instars. In less than 2 weeks, the caterpillar will be 2000 larger!  To learn more about the caterpillars instars, visit the Minnesota University at this link:  Monarch Life Cycle

Milkweed is highly poisonous to grazing animals and humans if ingested.  After about 2 weeks, they find a place to attach themselves to and begin the process of metamorphosis. It attaches itself to a stem or leaf using a silk strand.  It hangs itself in a “J” form and then begins to cocoon itself in a protein shell called the Pupa (Chrysalis).

Stage 3:  The Pupa (Chrysalis). 8 days to 2 weeks, Fig. 16.   This is where the caterpillar undergoes a remarkable transformation via metamorphosis.  The process begins with creating a silky glue to the underside of a firm branch.  The  caterpillar makes a ‘U’ turn on the branch in order to insert it’s rear end claspers  into the silky substance and then hangs upside down in a “J” position.  The first part of the Chrysalis begins at the back of it’s head.  The skin splits and the substance that creates the shell, emerges.  At first, the shell of the pupa is soft but within a few hours it hardens. The green color camouflages it from predators.  Inside the mouth changes over to a straw like form and the body begins to grow wings.

Third Stage:  
Fig. 16

Complete metamorphosis shown below.

 Monarch metamorphosis
Fig. 17

Metamorphosis: So, just what is happening inside the pupa as the caterpillar undergoes it’s miraculous transformation?

  1. Inside the caterpillar itself, enzymes are at the ready as well as particular cells, called the “Imaginal disks” .  After the last (5th molt), these cells are tuned on.
  2. Enzymes are released that actually digest the caterpillar tissue.  This forms a rich medium for the new growth.
  3. The imagining disks cells have specific functions.  Like a human body, the heart cells grow into heart cells, the brain into the brain and so on.  The caterpillar disks have wing cells that grow into wings, antennae cells that grow into antennae and so on.

Nothing like this transformation happens in vertebrates such as ourselves.  It’s a phenomenon of insects and it truly is a miraculous biological process of transformation.  It’s like rebuilding your Toyota car into a Cadillac!

Stage 4: Monarch Butterfly is BORN!  Finally, the shell bursts open and a butterfly emerges, Fig18. It takes a couple of hours before it can fly because its wings are tiny, wet and wrinkly. The butterfly pumps body fluid, called hemolymph, into the wings to make them grow big and strong. After the wings have hardened, it’s time to sip fluids! The butterfly flies off in search of its first meal, which it will slurp up through its straw-like tongue, or proboscis. After just dining on milkweed, butterflies enjoy a little more variety and take their nectar from several differing flowers, making them one of nature’s major migratory pollinators.

The Monarch is born!!
.Fig. 18

Generation 1 Monarchs can reproduce as soon as 4-5 days after birth.   They will begin their migration north laying eggs along the way and only go  as far as half way across the continent. The eggs lain will become the 2nd generation of Monarchs. 

In Summary of the FOUR STAGES of the Monarch

The Four Stages of the Monarch
Click to EnglargeFig. 19


Generation 2: (June to July)

The Grandchildren of the previous 4th generation.

Generation 2 adult Monarchs emerge in June and July, mate and lay eggs soon after emerging. Most of those that begin their lives in the south move north as adults, since the southern summers are too hot and dry for their offspring. Those laid farther north probably do not move far, and can use all of their energy to produce as many offspring as possible.  

Note the migratory patterns of Generation 2, Fig. 20 and Fig. 21 below.  As noted above, Fig. 5, those in the western part of the continent will migrate easterly to the upper left near the Rocky Mountains. 


Fig. 20
.Fig. 21

The life span of a generation 2 Monarch ranges between 2 weeks to 6.  Their main purpose is to drink nectar, mate, and lay eggs.  The eggs from this generation create generation 3. 


Generation 3: (July to August)

The Great Grandchildren of the previous 4th generation.

Generation 3 adult Monarchs emerge in July to August Fig 20 and 21.  Once born, they will either remain where they are or fly further north or northeast depending on their current location. The life span of generation 3 is also 2 weeks to 6.   Like it’s generation before them, their main purpose is to drink nectar, mate, and lay eggs. These eggs hatch into the last and most astonishing generation of all — generation 4, also called the Super Generation.  


Generation 4, the Super Generation: (August to September)

The Great Great Grandchildren to the previous 4th generation.

The 4th successive generation is born August to September.  It is this generation that is the most fascinating of all! 

The annual migration of North America’s Monarch butterflies is one of the greatest spectacles of nature. Each year, more than 300 million Monarchs travel more than 2,000 miles from Northern America and Canada to a remote forest 200 miles west of Mexico city.  But they are as fragile as they are beautiful.  Sudden changes in their environment can mean disaster.  A January 2002 rain storm followed with freezing temperatures claimed as many as 250 million, almost 80 percent of the population at the El Resario Butterfly Sanctuary, just one of a half dozen sanctuaries in the area. Their bodies covered the forest floor giving off an unusual odor. Biologists suspect logging to have contributed to the kill-off opening the forest to wind and cold air.  In the last few decades nearly half of the woods that the Monarchs depend upon in this region have been destroyed, primarily by illegal logging. The Mexican government along with the World Log Life Fund has launched efforts to preserve what is left by offering to pay land owners to not cut trees.   But the money is very limited. The 2002 storm was not the first to strike the Monarch population nor will it likely be the last. For the moment, millions of the Monarch butterflies still take to the skies each year. 

The 4th generation is the only generation that does not die off in 2 to 6 weeks.  This generation will need to last 8 months so that they can migrate south, overwinter 4-5 months, and then migrate north to the southern parts of the continent to lay eggs, —  then they die off. How does this occur?

These unique and amazing creatures always return to the same trees as the 4th generation before them without ever being there before.  How is this possible? 

Theories on Migration: (September, October, and November)

  1. Many scientists speculate that they must have an internal map and compass that is innate.  At the very least they are born with an instinct to complete the migration.
  2. The Monarch butterfly uses the position of the sun as a compass.  They migrate during the day, and the sun is the celestial cue that leads them south.
  3. The Monarchs have an internal clock that helps them orient themselves to head south depending on the position of the sun.
  4. The Monarch butterfly has a magnetic compass that gives them a keen sense of direction.  This magnetic compass helps direct them to the equator.
  5. Once they are far enough south, they use smell and social cues to help guide them to their exact wintering sites. 
  6. It is also theorized that Monarchs are born with an internal map based on the magnetic field of the Earth that guides them to all of their destinations.  This is much like sea turtles.  The creatures are born with an internal map that directs them to the places they need to go in order to survive. 

During the Last Migration: The Greatest Journey of All!

The last migration is one of nature’s greatest migrations.  It is also one of nature’s unsolved mysteries.  These delicate creatures will journey  thousands of miles in a feat of endurance and navigation unlike anything else in nature. They’ve never taken a long flight before and many are traveling up to 3,000 miles to a place where none of these 4th generation butterflies has ever been before.  Somehow they are recognizing landmarks, or following streams, or following the angle of the sun, or following the the earth’s magnetic field, or simply just following something we have no clue about.  They are flying to a remote  place in the Mexican mountains and they get there at exactly the same time every year. Can you do that?

How they survive their marathon migration is another mystery.  They only fly when conditions are perfect! If it’s too cold, they get sluggish and can’t flap their wings. If it’s too hot, they stop flying so that they don’t get overheated.  Their multipurpose antennae track time and the position of the sun. They feed a stream of signals to their brains.  Tiny hairs on their head gage the wind. Their super sensitive eyes see lightwaves and colors far beyond ours.  They smell with their antennae and they taste with their feet.  Then they must stop for nectar, but any time they land there could be enemies lurking.  Cats are always on the loose or they may fly into a web. Bad weather is also the Monarch’s enemy, since a rainstorm can be deadly.  A Monarch that started in Canada has to fly at least 50 miles a day in order to get to Mexico at a good time. The physical effort this requires for a creature so small is remarkable with such fragile wings.  

Butterflies have the worst possible body form for making a long distance migration.  Their bodies are simply a bad design for such a journey.  Every time they flap their wings they are burning up to 20 times their energy allowance.  To compensate, they turn to soaring.  Soaring is gliding on rising hot air.   Soaring is the key to them getting to Mexico.  

On the shores of the Great Lakes, just days into their journey, the Monarchs face their greatest hurdle, miles of open water and constantly shifting winds.  They can’t see across the Great Lakes.  With no land in sight, Monarchs use their finely tuned sense of direction to carry them across the water. If wind from the south, (a headwind) threatens to blow them off course, they stop … and wait.  They will locate a boat heading in the direction against the wind and park. When they sense that the wind has shifted in their favor, they fly on.

Barriers during Migration

Bad Weather Open Waters Wind
Predator Predator  Predator

They will fly over the Industrial Belt, through small mid-western towns, across the great plains, over scorching deserts to navigate the Sierra mountains,  to finally approach the southwest. No one knows how many Monarchs die along the way.  In fields where chemicals are sprayed, thousands of Monarchs are killed. But if they make it to Mexico, there is another threat.  Their forest is in danger of illegal logging operations.  With the sanctuaries shrinking, an unusually cold winter can be a disaster for the butterflies 

The local people of Mexico in the region of their destination, believe that Monarchs represent the spirits of their ancestors.  The arrival of the Monarchs each years begins a celebration of the “Day of the Dead”.  One local, Homero Aredjis, states, “The butterflies would fly through our town, sometimes stopping for water.  Sometimes they would be in our house. There were millions of butterflies and for us this was a sign of a spontaneous miracle.  But we did not know that they were coming from Canada!! All the way across the United states”. 

Prior to 1975, no one knew why the Monarchs disappeared from many areas of the U.S.  Then in 1975, Fred Urquhart, a scientist who had been studying the Monarch for 38 years, discovered they were vacationing around the Pacific Grove in Central Mexico or the coastal side of California. Scientists found that Monarchs tagged in Canada were found in Mexico!

There are about 12 cities that the Monarchs hibernate at, they are:  San Andres, Mil Cumbres, Sierra Chincua, El Rosario, La Mesa, Loma de Aparicio, Cerro Pelon, Piedra Herrada, Chivati-Huacal, San F. Oxtotilpan, Palomas, and Altamirano. It’s a perfect environment for the Monarchs because of it’s unique climate. The forests of these regions acts as a blanket by keeping the heat in for the Monarchs. The leaves act like an umbrella keeping the rain out.  Lastly, the trees are like hot water bottles radiating heat out through the butterflies body. 

In one particular experiment, Monarchs who were tagged were moved from Kansas to Washington.  These Monarchs were expected to fly straight south into Florida since Kansas was a direct path south to Mexico; but somehow, the Monarchs re-oriented themselves, and instead of flying directly south, turned and flew south west towards Mexico.  This means that although they started in an unfamiliar location, they somehow adjusted themselves and landed up in the right place in Mexico. That’s pretty cool!!


What a massive and magical sight to observe!  

How tired they must be! 

Landing in Mexico/S California Monarchs Congregating Hibernating on a Tree Trunk

Now What?  After some 2-3 months of flying thousands of miles, what’s next?  The Monarchs search out Oyamel fir trees in Mexico and Eucalyptus trees in southern California. Here the Monarchs will go into semi-hibernation storing up their reserves for when the Spring rolls around.  From the time of their birth in the north, their sexual maturity was on hold.  As the warmer days and longer daylight hours occur, such climatical changes send signals to the sleeping Monarchs to awake. At this time their sexual maturity begins to mature.

Once males mate, they will die.  Their survival was for that purpose only and the long journey south expended their energies.  The females endure and will begin to fly North to the southern portions of the country.  They are tattered, torn, and beaten by such an expendable journey for the past 8 months.  Once they lay their eggs, they too will die off.  The 1st generation has now been lain and so the cycle begins again.   

Summary of Migrations and  Generations

Monarch’s Annual Cycle


Help The Monarchs!

Factors that threaten the Monarch’s populations:

  • Milkweed loss
  • Climate
  • Herbicides
  • Deforestation
  • Predators
  • Roadside maintenance activities
  • Ozone population
  • Water diversion
  • Real estate development
  • Removal of non-native eucalyptus trees
  • Tourism

Each person can make a difference.  Plant some Milkweed!  Using the charts above, choose the type you need for your area.

The Monarch Population is Threatened
Leaders of all three North American countries have decided Monarchs are a priority. As a result, the U.S. government, through the departments of Interior and Agriculture, are creating strategic goals for increasing habitat. 

The U.S. needs about 1.5 billion new stems of milkweed, or about 500 million new plants, to help reach the 6 hectare overwintering goal, says Wayne Thogmartin, a research ecologist with the USGS.


Here are a few places the researchers suggest to start:

  • Create habitat in your backyard, school or office. If you can, remove some grass and put in a garden. Each new plant makes a difference.
  • Sign up for monarch citizen science projects and collect data for researchers. For more information, go to
  • Ask before you buy. If you want to plant a pollinator-friendly garden, ask to be sure the seeds or plants weren’t treated with neonicotinoids.
  • Talk to your friends, neighbors and relatives.
  • Donate to organizations working for conservation of habitat including The Nature Conservancy, the Monarch Joint Venture and the Monarch Butterfly Fund.

Follow along and observe the Monarch’s journey and location at a particular point in the season. Go to Journey North and track their migration on real time maps and follow migration news. Follow what to report each Spring and Fall.  Scientists rely on the help of citizen scientist to understand the Monarch’s conservation needs.  Your observations make a valuable contribution — and help tell the dramatic story of the Monarch’s migration to Mexico and back again.   

Download the Journey North science app to your phone and while out in the field, at any time of the day, report your sitings!!  

Available for the iPhone and Android.  



Monarch Classification

Below are 3 male species of the Danaus genus of Monarchs.  There are subtle differences between them, can you spot them? 

Danaus plexippus Danaus erippus Danaus cleophile
 True Monarch:  Found throughout North and South America,Asia, and the South Pacific.   Southern Monarch: Found in Eastern South America and Brazil Jamaican Monarch:  Found in Jamaica and in the Caribbean. 

The above Monarchs can be further subdivided:  See below.

For review of the 12 various Danaus genus, please see the taxonomy and phylogeny of this specie.  Wikipedia: Danaus Butterfly.  

Danaus Affinis Danuas Chrysippus Danaus Dorippus
Danaus Eresimus (SOLDIER) Danaus Genutia Danaus Gilippus (QUEEN)
Danaus Ismare Danaus Melanippus Danaus Petilia


Look-A-like of another Genus

Admiral Butterfly belonging to the Limentis genus.

Limenitis archippus (VICEROY)
Check out the White Monarch

Monarchs As The Official State Insect

The Monarch butterfly is the official insect of 7 states:

  1. Alabama
  2. Idaho
  3. Illinois
  4. Minnesota
  5. Texas
  6. Vermont
  7. West Virginia