Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch butterflies are the most beautiful of all butterflies and are considered the "king" of butterflies, hence the name "monarch."

Description: 

The upper side of a male is bright orange with wide black borders and black veins; the hind-wing has a patch of scent scales. The upper side of a female is orange-brown with wide black borders and blurred black veins. Both sexes have white spots on the borders and apex.

Habitat: 

Prairies, meadows, roadsides and grasslands. Larvae live and feed on milkweed plants but hang out on a variety of different plants.

Range: 

North America; northernmost populations migrate south for the winter.

Diet: 

Caterpillars eat only milkweed leaves. Adult butterflies eat nectar from flowers, consisting of about 20 percent sugar.

Life Span: 

Most live a few weeks. The last generation born in late August is the migratory generation. The shorter days and cooler temperatures of autumn prevent the butterflies from maturing enough to reproduce. This allows them to live for about 8 to 9 months – long enough to fly south for the winter and back again to reproduce the following summer.

Family Life: 

One female can lay up to 400 eggs. Eggs are deposited on the underside of milkweed leaves and hatch in 3 to 12 days. Striped larvae feed on plant leaves for about 2 weeks and develop into caterpillars. Caterpillars molt up to 4 times while growing. Three or four generations of monarchs may be born in one summer.

Status: 

Least Concern, although the entire species population migrates to one small area in the mountains of Mexico.