Our Wild Neighbors

Monarch Butterfly

Danaus plexippus

Found where there is milkweed

Image of a Monarch Butterfly, dried and mounted, seen from above.

Description of the animal

  • Large butterfly with orange wings veined in black. Each wing has a wide black border with rows of white spots.
  • Wingspan varies from 93 to 105 millimetres.
  • Characteristics specific to the male: two tiny black spots on its hind wings and thinner black wing veins.
  • Caterpillar striped black, yellow, and white, with two pairs of long black antennae, one pair near its head and the other shorter pair near the end of its abdomen.

Habitat and needs

  • Frequents several types of environment, particularly open spaces with flowering plants, as well as fields and fallow land.
  • Secretes an aphrodisiac perfume from the two black spots on its lower wings. This is how the male attracts females.
  • Spends the winter in Mexico. On the way back, several generations of Monarchs succeed one another and overlap before reaching Canada in June. A first generation of Monarchs thus reproduces in Canada.
  • The male dies after mating and the female, after laying its eggs.
  • Feeds on the nectar of several flowers, including goldenrod, asters, and milkweed.
  • Lays hundreds of eggs one by one on the underside of milkweed leaves.

Relationship

  • The Monarch is sometimes confused with the Viceroy, a smaller butterfly whose wings have one less row of white spots.
  • Is useful in pollinating various nectar-producing plants.
  • Industrial agriculture, use of herbicides, and destruction of wintering sites threaten its survival.
  • The Monarch’s migration is being studied by the scientific community.

Living with them

  • Plant milkweed in the garden so the Monarch will lay its eggs there.
  • Protect milkweed, the only food source for the Monarch caterpillar.
  • Plant a variety of nectar-producing plants, especially those with flowers featuring a deep corolla.
  • Contribute to Monarch research, conservation, and educational projects by taking part in the Monarch Butterfly Count, for example.

Participating cities where this animal has been seen