9 Fascinating Monarch Butterfly Facts

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Learn facts about the monarch butterfly, including how how to tell male and female monarchs apart and if monarchs are poisonous.

monarch on milkweedCourtesy Carol Manglos-Foster
Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed for survival.

The Host Plant for a Monarch Butterfly is Easy to Remember

There’s only one host plant for monarch butterflies—milkweed! Choose native varieties for your area. Create a monarch haven with our complete guide to growing milkweed.

Monarchs Butterflies Need to Stay Warm

In order for these delicate creatures to fly, their wing muscles must stay above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. To help them out, provide a flat warming stone or puddler in a sunny part of your butterfly garden. Learn the stages of the monarch butterfly life cycle.

Not All Orange Butterflies Are Monarchs

Soldier, queen and viceroy butterflies all are mostly orange and black and look very similar to monarch butterflies. But they all have differences that set them apart. Monarchs have bright orange wings with multiple black veins. Their wings are edged in black with white speckles. Quiz: How many butterflies can you ID?

Male monarch butterflyShutterstock / K Quinn Ferris
Male monarch butterflies have dark spots on the wings

Look at the Wings to ID Male vs Female Monarch Butterflies

The easiest way to tell a male monarch from a female is by looking for two dark spots on the hindwings—females don’t have these spots.

How Fast Do Monarch Butterflies Fly?

It’s all about speed for these butterflies. Monarch butterflies can flap their wings up to 12 times a second when flying at their fastest. Give these butterflies a boost by adding monarch-friendly nectar flowers to your garden.

monarch on cosmos flowersCourtesy Diane Theodor
Monarch butterfly feeding on cosmos flowers

Monarch Butterfly Migration is a Long Journey

These amber beauties could fly circles around other species. Monarch butterflies fly a long distance during fall migration, farther than any other tropical butterfly—up to 3,000 miles. Discover how magical monarch migration can be.

Monarchs Have a Great Sense of Direction

Monarch butterflies don’t need a GPS to locate their migration destination. Many of the gorgeous travelers find their way to the same exact location, perhaps even to one particular tree, where previous generations have wintered before. Use this monarch migration map to track the epic journey.

A Female Monarch Butterfly Lays Hundreds of Eggs

A female monarch in the wild can lay up to 500 eggs on milkweed plants throughout her lifetime. Butterflies raised in captivity can lay even more. Learn how to tell the difference between monarch eggs and aphids.

monarch butterfly caterpillarCourtesy Sue Lemon
Monarch caterpillar

Monarch Butterflies and Caterpillars Are Poisonous

Caterpillars eat only milkweed, which contains a poisonous chemical that protects them from predators. The chemicals stay in their system to make even the adults taste bad. Bright orange wings let predators know the butterflies are poisonous. Are monarch butterflies endangered?

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Emily Hannemann
Emily Hannemann is an associate digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in magazine writing from the University of Missouri - Columbia. When she’s not writing and editing, you’ll find her swimming, running, or hiking. She knows blue jays are controversial, but she loves them anyway.