The monarch butterfly is easily recognized by its two pairs of orange-red wings, which feature black veins and white spots on their edges. Monarch butterflies will travel between 1,200 to 2,800 miles or more from the United States and Canada to the forests of Central Mexico. From there, the butterflies will hibernate in the mountain forests, where the warmer climate provides them a better chance of survival. Despite their incredible journey, most monarch butterflies will only live between four to five weeks.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Monarch butterflies go through prolonged stages of metamorphoses starting with the caterpillar phase, shedding their skin an amazing five times before their pupa stage.
- The caterpillar may eat its shed skin in four of its five molts in the stages referred to as "instar".
- In the fifth instar, ten to 12 hours before shedding its skin for the fifth and final time, the Monarch caterpillar spins a silk for it to hang from. After some initial wriggling, the pupa skin hardens into a protective covering for the evolving monarch butterfly inside of it.
- The monarch caterpillar is a voracious eater, capable of consuming an entire milkweed leaf in less than five minutes. They gain about 2700 times their original weight, and in the process excrete an abundant amount of waste.
- The monarch butterfly's scientific name is Danaus plexippus.
- The IUCN has classified the monarch butterfly as near threatened.