How Long Do Monarch Butterflies Live? (Explained)

It’s interesting to note that monarch butterflies have a lifespan of about 2 to 6 weeks.

monarch butterflies | Plant Gardener

This is relatively short when compared to other insects, such as dragonflies, which can have a lifespan of up to 2 months. 

It is also much shorter than the average lifespan of a mammal, which ranges from around 20 years for a hamster to over 100 years for a bowhead whale. 

Nevertheless, monarch butterflies can complete several generations in their lifetimes, allowing them to spread their wings and travel great distances.

One study found that monarch butterflies can migrate up to 3,000 miles.

By understanding more about the life cycle of these beautiful creatures, we can appreciate them all the more and work to protect them and their habitats.

SpeciesD. plexippus

The Life Cycle Of A Butterfly

1. Egg 

A female butterfly will lay eggs after it has mated with a male butterfly.

The adult butterflies can lay up to several hundred eggs, either on leaves or in a cluster around a twig of a plant that the larva will eat once hatched from their eggs. 

The egg is light green when first laid but quickly darkens as it absorbs water from the air and starts developing.

The egg life cycle of a monarch butterfly is fascinating. Monarch eggs are typically laid on milkweed plants, and the female monarch will lay up to 400 eggs during her lifetime. The eggs are small and round, and they hatch into caterpillars within a few days.

This egg life cycle is amazing to watch, and it is definitely something that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. 

Watching the caterpillars grow and form their chrysalis is definitely a sight to behold, and the emergence of the butterfly is always a cause for celebration. 

If you are interested in witnessing the egg life cycle of a monarch butterfly, then be sure to plant some milkweed plants in your garden. It is definitely worth it.

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2. Larva (Caterpillar) 

In about two weeks, the egg hatches into a tiny caterpillar which begins eating nonstop until its growth causes its skin to become too tight to grow anymore. 

It then sheds its skin and becomes a larger caterpillar before eating more food and repeating this cycle several times until it is ready to become a chrysalis.

The larva life cycle of a monarch butterfly is quite interesting. After the eggs hatch, the larva will eat their way out of the eggshell and start to feed on milkweed. 

They grow very quickly, molting (shedding their skin) several times as they eat. By the time they are ready to pupate or form a cocoon, they will have doubled in size.

Once the larva has pupated, it will stay in that state for about two weeks. During this time, its body is changing from that of a caterpillar into that of a butterfly. When it emerges from the cocoon, it will be a beautiful adult monarch butterfly.

It’s amazing how such a small creature can turn into such a beautiful butterfly.

3. Chrysalis (Pupa) 

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About two weeks after the larva has finished its last molt, it spins a silk pad on a branch or leaf and attaches itself upside down to form a chrysalis. It then sheds its skin one last time and becomes a pupa inside the chrysalis. 

The pupa is very inactive, but over the course of several weeks, it develops into an adult butterfly. The pupa life cycle of a monarch butterfly is one of the most interesting aspects of these creatures. 

The pupa is the stage of the life cycle in which the monarch transforms from a caterpillar into a butterfly. This process takes around two weeks to complete and occurs inside a chrysalis.

Interestingly, the pupa life cycle is not just limited to monarch butterflies. Many other types of butterflies go through this transformation as well. In fact, many insects undergo a pupal stage during their life cycle.

There are several things that happen during the pupal stage. Firstly, the larva’s body begins to change as it starts to grow wings and other adult features.

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At the same time, its internal organs also start to change. Finally, the larva’s outer skin begins to harden, forming the chrysalis.

Once the transformation is complete, the butterfly will emerge from the chrysalis and start its new life cycle. It will be ready to mate and lay eggs, continuing the cycle once again.

So next time you see a monarch butterfly, take a moment to appreciate the amazing process that it has gone through to become what it is today. The pupa life cycle is a fascinating process that should not be overlooked!

4. Adult Butterfly 

adult monarch butterfly

About two weeks after the pupa has finished developing, the adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalis and takes its first flight. After mating and laying eggs, the adult butterfly dies within a few days or weeks.

The lifespan of a butterfly can be affected by several different factors. Temperature, diet, and habitat all play a role in how long a butterfly lives.

Butterflies that live in warm climates typically have shorter lifespans than those that live in colder climates. This is because the warmer temperatures lead to faster development and reproduction, and also make the butterflies more susceptible to predators and disease.

Butterflies that eat a wide variety of plants typically have longer lifespans than those that eat just one type of plant. This is because they get more nutrients and are less likely to become sick.

Butterflies that live in habitats with plenty of trees and other plants tend to have longer lifespans than those that live in habitats with fewer plants. This is because they have a greater variety of food to eat and places to lay eggs.

However, not all butterflies will respond to these factors in the same way. Butterflies from colder climates might suffer if their habitat becomes too warm, and butterflies from warmer climates might not be able to survive in colder climates. 

In addition, some foods that are generally thought to be healthy could harm certain kinds of butterflies. For example, milkweed contains toxins that can kill monarch caterpillars.

Males and females look different: males are more brightly colored than females, and both have black and white spots on their wings.

What Do Monarch Caterpillars Eat

Monarch caterpillars eat milkweed leaves. Milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat. Adult monarch butterflies also drink nectar from flowers.

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How Do Monarchs Migrate?

Some monarchs in the eastern United States migrate to Mexico each winter, while others stay in the southern United States. Monarchs that live in California and Arizona do not migrate. 

The migration process is still not fully understood, but scientists believe that the direction of the wind and changes in the environment (such as temperature and food availability) play a role in determining where monarchs will migrate. 

Monarchs use a combination of different senses; including sight, smell, and a special sense called “magnetoreception” where they can sense the earth’s magnetic field; to find their way during migration.

What Makes A Monarch Butterfly Unique From Other Butterflies?

Only female monarchs have orange and black patterns on their wings. Male monarch butterflies are much drabber in color but have a small black spot on each hind wing that is visible when they fly or hold their wings open. 

Females also tend to be larger than males and lay eggs singly instead of in clusters. In the wild, however, it’s unlikely that anyone butterfly would reach its natural end of life. 

They are eaten by predators such as birds and lizards while in the caterpillar stage, and while they may avoid these threats while in the cocoon or butterfly stage, they still fall victim to inclement weather or accidentally fly into objects around them, resulting in their death.

How Can I Get Monarchs To Come To My Flower Garden?

One of the best ways to attract monarchs to your garden is to provide them with a place to rest and feed. A few logs or a pile of stones in a sunny spot will work, or you can install a special butterfly garden. 

If you have room, plant some milkweed—monarchs rely on this plant for food. You can also provide nectar-rich flowers like butterfly bush, zinnia, or lantana. In addition to planting the right flowers, you can help monarchs by avoiding pesticides and herbicides. 

These chemicals can be harmful to monarchs and other pollinators. You can also create a sanctuary for monarchs near your home by planting milkweed and other native plants. This will help protect monarchs as they migrate.

If you want to do more to help the monarch population, consider becoming a citizen scientist. There are many ways to help, such as tracking the butterflies you see and submitting your sightings to a database. 

You can also collect eggs or larvae and raise them into adult butterflies. By doing this, you can help scientists understand more about the monarch’s life cycle and how to protect these beautiful creatures.

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Discover the remarkable lifespan of Monarch butterflies in our latest blog. Delve into the intricacies of their lifecycle and learn how long these majestic creatures live. From egg to adult, explore the stages of development and the factors influencing their lifespan. Gain insights into conservation efforts and how you can contribute to preserving these iconic butterflies. Join us on a journey through nature’s wonder and uncover the secrets of the Monarch’s lifespan. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or a curious observer, this blog provides valuable knowledge about these enchanting creatures. Dive into the world of Monarch butterflies with PlantGardener today.


In general, the most important factor affecting a butterfly’s lifespan is its natural environment (the climate where it normally lives).

Many species of butterfly live for only one or two weeks as adults before mating and dying.

However, a few species can live for up to 9 months.

Butterflies are beautiful creatures that come in many different shapes and sizes. They can be found all over the, and there are more than 20,000 different species of butterfly.

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