Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterfly

Butterflies undergo an unusual process called metamorphosis, or a change from one thing to another. They hatch from their egg as a tiny caterpillar, and grow bigger and bigger over few weeks until they are ready to become a chrysalis. They emerge from the chrysalis two weeks later with wings! Each stage takes about 2 weeks, so the entire lifespan of a monarch may only be 6 weeks after hatching. There is an exception for the late-season monarchs who migrate to Mexico for the winter before returning north in the spring. The migratory Monarchs start the life cycle all over again upon their return, by mating and laying eggs. They then die shortly thereafter.

You can tell the difference between a male Monarch and a female. The male has a small black spot on both of its hind wings. On other butterfly species, this spot is used to release pheromones to attract a mate. However, scientist still are not sure what the Monarchs use it for. Females also have thicker veins, giving them a darker appearance.

 Monarch Egg and a lady bug on a Tropical Milkweed

Monarch Chrysalises

Monarch Caterpillars Munching on Swamp Milkweed

        Monarch Butterflies