Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly
The life cycle of the monarch butterfly is one of beauty.
Many gardeners plant certain flowers for their beauty and they might be hoping to attract additional wildlife to their yard. Flowers and plants can lure your prey in for a closer look. When they find what they seek, they stay. Bright red flowers attract hummingbirds. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed, which can be transplanted in your gardens.
If you are lucky enough to have butterflies lay their egg on your milkweed plant you will get a first-hand look at its life cycle.
The adult monarch, butterfly eat an all liquid diet. Plant a yard full of fruit trees, flowers and provide a water source and you will surely have butterflies.
Four Stages of the Butterfly Lifecycle
Monarch butterflies go through four stages during one life cycle, and through four generations in one year. It’s a little confusing but keep reading and you will understand.
1.) The Egg
2.) The larvae (caterpillar)
4.) The adult butterfly
The four generations are four different butterflies going through these four stages during one given year until it is time to start over again with stage one and generation one.
STAGE ONE: In February and March: The final generation of hibernating monarch butterflies comes out of hibernation to find a mate. They then migrate north and east in order to find a place to lay their eggs. This starts stage one and generation one of the new year for the monarch butterfly.
STAGE TWO: In March and April: The eggs are laid on milkweed plants. They hatch into baby caterpillars, also called the larvae. It takes about four days for the eggs to hatch. Then the baby caterpillar doesn’t do much more than eat the milkweed in order to grow.
One of the largest issues the larvae battle is aphids.
Learn how to control aphids in my post here.
STAGE THREE: After about two weeks, the caterpillar will be fully-grown and find a place to attach itself so that it can start the process of metamorphosis. It will attach itself to a stem or a leaf using silk and transform into a chrysalis.
Although, from the outside, the 10 days of the chrysalis phase seems to be a time when nothing is happening. It is really a time of rapid change. Within the chrysalis the old body parts of the caterpillar are undergoing a remarkable transformation, called metamorphosis, to become the beautiful parts that make up the butterfly that will emerge.
STAGE FOUR: The monarch butterfly will emerge from the pupa and fly away, feeding on flowers and just enjoying the short life it has left, which is only about two to six weeks.
This first generation monarch butterfly will then die after laying eggs for generation number two.
Generation Number Two
May and June: The second generation of monarch butterflies is born in May and June.
You can tell the male monarch butterfly from the female by the two black spots on his hind wings and the thinner black webbing within the wings. The female’s webbing is thicker and she has no identifying wing spot.
July and August: Then the third generation will be born in July and August. These monarch butterflies will go through exactly the same four stage life cycle as the first generation did, dying two to six weeks after it becomes a beautiful monarch butterfly.
September and October: The fourth generation of monarch butterflies is a little bit different than the first three generations. The fourth generation is born in September and October and goes through exactly the same process as the first, second and third generations except for one part.
The fourth generation of monarch butterflies does not die after two to six weeks. Instead, this generation of monarch butterflies migrates to warmer climates like Mexico and California and will live for six to eight months until it is time to start the whole process over again.
It is amazing how the four generations of monarch butterflies work out so that the monarch population can continue to live on throughout the years, but not become overpopulated. Mother Nature sure has some cool ways of doing things, doesn’t she?