Species Profile

Quick Facts

  • The eastern monarch population migrates over 5,000 miles round trip to reach overwintering grounds in Mexico.
  • The western monarch populations migrate to overwintering sites on the Pacific coast, such as Pismo Beach or Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz.
  • The monarch’s migration is not made by a single generation; it takes four generations of monarchs to mate, hatch, metamorphose, and complete a full migration cycle.
  • The milkweed that monarchs eat as caterpillars contains a poisonous toxin that is stored in their bodies; they retain that toxin in their bodies throughout their lives, and it protects them from predators.

 

STATUS

Monarch butterfly populations have declined about 90% over the past twenty years. In 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service is slated to make a determination about whether the monarch butterfly must be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

SPECIES INFORMATION

The monarch butterfly is an iconic species - generations of school children learn about the monarch’s life cycle as it completes its metamorphosis from caterpillar into butterfly and migrates thousands of miles. A crucial component of that life cycle is milkweed, a wildflower. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed, and milkweed is the only food that monarch caterpillars eat.

WORKING LANDS AS HIGH-QUALITY HABITAT

Loss of milkweed breeding habitat, largely due to land use change and widespread application of herbicides, is a critical driver of monarch butterfly population declines. By planting milkweed and other native, nectar-producing plants, landowners can help save the monarch butterfly.