Return to the Wild - Evolving perspectives on Canadian wildlife
The monarch butterfly has been recorded in all of Canada's ten provinces.

Did you know?

The monarch possibly has the longest insect migration in North America, travelling up to 4,000 kilometres a year.

Scientific name: Danaus plexippus
Average weight: 1.5 g (caterpillar)
0.4 g (butterfly)
Average wingspan: 93–105 mm
Average lifespan: 6–8 weeks (summer generation)
6–8 months (winter generation)
A monarch butterfly perches on top of a flower.


Download the MP3 or install Adobe Flash Player and enable Javascript to listen to this audio.

Duration: 1 minute 15 seconds


The monarch life-cycle begins. After breeding, the female butterfly lays pin-head sized eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. She may lay up to 400 eggs on separate plants.

In three to 12 days an egg hatches and the monarch larva begins eating. Its growth rate is phenomenal. If a human infant grew at the same speed it would weigh tons within a month.

Living as a caterpillar for 3 weeks, the monarch attaches itself to a twig, sheds its skin and forms a protective chrysalis.

Inside the chrysalis, the pupa begins its metamorphosis into an adult. The larva doesn’t completely breakdown inside, since each caterpillar contains the basic components of an adult butterfly.

Within two weeks, the pupa loses its colour and a butterfly emerges. After hatching, it hangs upside down, pumping fluid from its abdomen into the veins of its wings to expand them.

In early spring the adult butterfly searches for a mate and the monarch life cycle begins again.