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The Magnificent Monarch Migration
by Beth Ullenburg
April 2018

Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly by USFWS.

The monarch butterfly is an iconic species in North America and one of the most recognizable wildlife species on the planet.  Monarchs, along with many other pollinators, are in steep decline.  Loss of habitat, limited amounts of milkweed, pesticides, disease, and extreme weather events all contribute to their demise.  The good news is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with many partners, organizations, conservation groups, communities, and private citizens to help save the monarch.


Monarch egg on milkweed
Monarch egg on milkweed by USFWS.

Milkweed is vital to the monarch butterfly.  Females only lay eggs on milkweed and it is the sole source of food for monarch caterpillars.  As more land is converted to other uses, milkweed is disappearing from the landscape. You can help by planting even small amounts of native milkweed in gardens, backyards, and even large pots.

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed
A monarch caterpillar feeds on milkweed by USFWS.

The migration of monarch butterflies is one of the most epic journeys in all of nature.  From their wintering grounds in central Mexico, it takes up to four generations before reaching their final breeding grounds in the northern United States.  This final generation makes the journey back to Mexico in the fall. You can study monarchs and help scientists better understand this amazing creature.

Monarchs migrating
The monarch migration by USFWS.
Monarchs ready to migrate
Monarchs gather before leaving Mexico by USFWS.

An adult monarch resting by USFWS.
Last updated: October 3, 2018