Do Monarch Butterfly Sightings Have Meaning?

To some people, seeing a monarch butterfly has meaning. These orange and black fliers can be a symbol of strength, change and more.

A group of monarch butterflies perch on a dried leaf in a star formation.Courtesy Pam Stewart
A group of monarch butterflies perches on a dried leaf in a star formation.

Monarch butterfly sightings thrill gardeners and nature lovers. The world’s most famous and beloved butterfly is renowned for its migration. Multiple generations work their way north during spring and summer, then a fall generation flies all the way to southern Mexico or to the California coast to spend the winter. While their population numbers have declined in recent years, monarchs still add beauty and color to our backyards. But you may have wondered if the sight of a monarch butterfly has meaning or symbolism, or even if it’s a spiritual sign. Here’s what you should know.

Discover 9 fascinating monarch butterfly facts.

monarch butterfly meaningCourtesy Cheryl Fleishman
Monarch butterflies may symbolize change or transformation.

Monarch Butterfly Meaning and Symbolism

In a nod to their life cycle, from egg to caterpillar to butterfly, monarchs can represent transformation and rebirth to some people. They might view a monarch sighting as a sign of upcoming change or a new direction in their life. Perhaps due to their long (up to 3,000 miles!) migration journey, these butterflies may also be an inspirational sign of strength and endurance. If you see a hummingbird or a cardinal, those sightings have special meaning, too. Plus, we chatted with our field editors about what seeing a wren means to them.

Monarchs face a lot of challenges, including climate change and deforestation. Some sources indicate the butterflies are a symbol of hope and resilience.

Are monarch butterflies endangered?

Day Of The Dead International Parade In Mexico CityNurPhoto/Getty Images
Participants dress as monarch butterflies during the Day of the Dead International Parade in Mexico City, Mexico

Monarch Butterfly Spiritual Meaning

Monarch butterflies have significant meaning in the Mexican culture. During the Day of the Dead holiday, the Mexican people see the arrival of monarchs as a spiritual symbol. Many believe the butterflies represent the souls of their ancestors returning to visit and bring comfort to loved ones. Revelers may even dress up as monarch butterflies in parades and other celebrations. Due to the butterflies’ yearly migration between countries, images of monarchs are also are used to show support for immigrants. Use this monarch migration map to track the butterflies’ epic voyage.

Next, check out the ultimate guide to growing milkweed plants for monarchs.

Lori Vanover
Lori has 20 years of experience writing and editing home, garden, birding and lifestyle content for several publishers. As Birds & Blooms senior digital editor, she leads a team of writers and editors sharing birding tips and expert gardening advice. Since joining Trusted Media Brands 13 years ago, she has held roles in digital and print, editing magazines and books, curating special interest publications, managing social media accounts, creating digital content and newsletters, and working with the Field Editors—Birds & Blooms network of more than 50 backyard birders. Passionate about animals and nature, Lori has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Environmental Communications from the University of Illinois. In 2023, she became certified as a Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener, and she is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and sits on the organization's Publications Advisory Committee. She frequently checks on her bird feeders while working from home and tests new varieties of perennials, herbs and vegetable plants in her ever-growing backyard gardens.