“How long does a monarch live?” and “Why do monarchs migrate south?”
The answers to these two questions go hand-in-hand. Children ask them all the time. Most monarchs live from two to six weeks as an adult butterfly, but the Monarch’s migration is the KEY to its yearly life cycle.
The total time frame for one butterfly’s life cycle (one generation) is about 6-8 weeks…egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly. It grows inside the egg for about 4 days. It then munches milkweed and grows as a monarch caterpillar (larvae) for about 2 more weeks. The caterpillar’s life inside the chrysalis (pupa) lasts about 10 days and its wonderful life as an adult butterfly lasts from 2 – 6 weeks.
February/March – hibernating monarchs in Mexico and southern California reawaken, become active, find a mate, begin the flight northward and lay their eggs. Finally they die. These special monarchs have lived about 4-5 months through the long winter.
March/April -the 1st generation monarchs are born -egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, adult butterfly;
May/June – the 2nd generation is born – egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, adult butterfly;
July/August – the 3rd generation is born – egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, adult butterfly;
Sept/Oct – the 4th generation is born – egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, adult butterfly . . . but THIS generation does not die. It MIGRATES south and lives 6-8 months in Mexico or Southern California. They begin awakening and mating in February/March of the NEXT SPRING, and then lay their eggs! Withered and tattered from their migration and hibernation… they finally die.
The cycles goes on as the new baby caterpillars are born each spring and the cycle continues throughout the year into the next spring. MAGICAL and AMAZING!
These are the four stages in the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly
“The Munching Caterpillar”
Let Me Out!
Whee! I’m Free!
Caterpillar (larvae) Stage
Chrysalis (pupa) Stage
Adult Butterfly Stage