Monarch Butterfly

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Other common names: Milkweed Butterfly

Scientific name: Danaus plexippus

The basics:
The Monarch Butterfly is found all throughout North America. The only time they leave their native habitats is in autumn when they migrate to the Neovolcanic mountains of Mexico. They spend about 4 months in this region where they hibernate for the winter.

Appearance / health:
Monarch Butterflies are a large species of butterfly. The body reaches about 1 1/2 inches long with wing spans of about 2 inches. Their bodies are a velvety black color. The wings are outlined in black with the veins of the wing being covered in black as well. In between these black outlines is a bright red-orange or orange color. The edge of the wings are also outlined with small white spots. Monarch caterpillars are banded with black, yellow, and white stripes.

Behavior / temperament:
Monarch Butterflies are completely harmless to humans. However, to most birds and other animals these butterflies are poisonous. They get their poison from the Milkweed that they eat while in the caterpillar stage. (Milkweed secretes poisonous fluids) To anyone planning on keeping these butterflies as pets, please remember that in many areas these butterflies are endangered and you may not be able to keep them. It is recommended that Monarchs be released after raising the caterpillars and the butterfly hatches from the chrysalis. Raising these butterflies is both fascinating and fun for people of any experience and ages.

As caterpillars, a jar with air holes is all that’s needed. As adults, they are typically let go back into the wild but if that’s not possible a large fully screened enclosure will work well. It should be large enough to allow the butterfly to fly for short periods of time.

Temperatures and humidity should mimic the are that these butterflies are found in. Generally temps between 70-80F will do well. Humidity should stay around 50-70%. No substrate is needed for a caterpillar, unless adding paper towels to clean up the droppings. Items inside the tank is important and should include many branches, twigs, and other climbable objects. A couple sticks going horizontally at the top of the enclosure for the caterpillar is important as it will usually pupate from these. Tank décor as butterflies should be pretty much the same, but in a larger enclosure. Milkweed must be added to both the caterpillars and butterflies enclosure.

Monarch caterpillars only eat the leaves of the Milkweed plant. This plant is very beneficial and is necessary for raising Monarchs. Adult Monarchs sip nectar out of a variety of plants including the Milkweed, Thistle, Goldenrod, Red Clover, etc.


beautiful orange monarch, Chrysalis life stage, great educational experience, metamorphoses


live milkweed, liquid diet, initial setup


temporary pets, ripe melons, delicate wings, outdoor enclosure, migrational pattern

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