The Monarch Butterfly is loved and admired for their beauty and courage

The mighty Monarch Butterfly spends the summer here in North America. Then, they migrate to Mexico or Southern California for the cold months.

A few live in Southern California, Texas and Florida all year long.

They also live in the Mediterranean area, Indonesia, Australia, Hawaii and some Pacific Islands.

Male Monarch ButterflyMale Monarch Butterfly

identifying the monarch butterfly

The Monarch's orange wings have black veins and black edges with two rows of white dots.

Their wing-span is around four inches. Their body is black with white dots.

Female MonarchFemale Monarch

The fore-wing is a little brighter orange than their hind-wings.

This is especially noticeable on the underside of their wings.

Males have an enlarged spot their hind wings containing a scent pouch. The scent pouch is lacking on the females.

The female's veins are a little bit thicker and her wing-span is slightly smaller than the male's.

monarch mimics

Other butterflies mimic Monarchs so birds think they taste bad and won't eat them. Monarch butterflies taste bad because of a chemical their caterpillars eat from the butterfly weed.

Viceroy ButterflyViceroy Butterfly

The Viceroy Butterflies look very similar to Monarchs.

But notice the heavy black band across their hind-wings?

The Monarch is lacking these heavy black bands.

The Viceroy is also about an inch smaller than the Monarch.

Queen ButterflyQueen Butterfly

The Queen Butterfly is another butterfly, also mistaken for a Monarch.

The topside of the Queen is lacking black veins.

The underside of the Queen looks very similar to the Monarch.

But the Queen Butterfly has white spots out in the middle of its fore-wings.

monarch butterfly migration

The Monarch migration has made them a favorite butterfly of many people.

They have never been where they are going. Their grandparents or ancestors flew there, but they have never been there.

How do they know where they are going? This is one of the very interesting Monarch butterflies facts scientists have been trying to answer.

Some scientists think the Monarch butterflies sense the magnetic field in the earth.

More interesting facts about butterflies

monarch fall migration

Monarchs migrate every year up to 2,000 miles.

Monarchs fly south down to Florida or the Texas gulf coast and then out across the Gulf to Mexico. Many also fly from California to Mexico.

Amazing! What courageous beauties!

How can a little butterfly go 2,000 miles? How can they do it?

Who taught them?

More about Butterflies

monarchs overwintering in Mexico

Members of their family sat on these very same trees in previous years.

They go right back to the same area where their ancestors have over-wintered in previous generations.

By mid-November the fir trees in the area where they overwinter are covered with them.

They are relatively inactive during the winter. They hang together in large clusters on the trees.

In early spring they will start feeding, breed and produce a new generation.

Then about mid-March the new generation will start back north.

How awesome is that!

monarch spring migration

They fly north into the southern United States.

When they get there they lay eggs and produce another generation.

The eggs hatch and the new generation keeps flying north.

In the fall, between August to October, they start heading back south.

It is the third or fourth generation since they left Mexico.

Life Cycle of a monarch Butterfly

butterfly milkweed

Monarch on Tropical Milk WeedMonarch on Tropical Milk Weed

Monarchs lay their eggs on butterfly milkweed.

When the eggs hatch the caterpillar feeds on the milkweeds.

The glycoside chemical in milkweeds make Monarch Butterflies toxic and taste bad to predators.

Plant one of the more than 100 varieties of milkweeds to feed the Monarch caterpillars.

The Monarch Butterflies will come to feed from the flowers and lay eggs on butterfly milkweed, so include them in your landscape. 

Also, include plenty of fall blooming flowers for butterflies, such as Asters and Mexican Sunflowers to feed the Monarchs that are migrating south for the winter.

Butterflies bring so much joy to our backyard gardens.

Invite the mighty Monarch Butterfly to your yard.

more butterfly pages

  • Types of Butterflies

    Photos and information about thirty types of butterflies commonly seen in the United States will help you identify the butterfly types you see in your yard.

  • Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle

    Photos and description of Monarch Butterfly life cycle from butterfly eggs, caterpillar, pupa, chrysalis to the adult butterfly, amazing butterfly metamorphosis.

  • Flowers for Butterflies

    Butterflies eat flower nectar. So plant some flowers for butterflies to provide butterfly food. Butterfly weed and butterfly bush are favorite butterfly flowers.

  • Difference Between Moth and Butterfly

    What is the difference betweenmoth andbutterfly? How can you tell a moth vs a butterfly? Moths and butterflies are related, there are distinct differences.

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