Use This Monarch Migration Map to Track the Epic Journey

There's more to the journey of monarch butterflies than you may know. Study this monarch migration map to see the route the butterflies take.

Monarch Migration MapGraphics courtesy of the National Park Service/S. Sparhawk

Monarch Migration Map

You might not notice, but a new life cycle is beginning in the garden. A monarch butterfly just laid an egg on a milkweed plant. This location was chosen for a reason: Milkweed leaves are the only food that monarch caterpillars eat. Here’s what a monarch egg looks like. The caterpillars have a big job to complete. Unlike other caterpillars that make a chrysalis, transform into butterflies and then die within weeks, monarchs are part of a yearly “super generation.” The monarch migration map (above) explains how these butterflies complete their annual journey.

A monarch caterpillar crawls across a milkweed leaf.Courtesy Jenny Miner
A monarch caterpillar crawls across a milkweed leaf.

The flight of the monarch butterfly may seem like a straightforward event, going south for winter, but it’s anything but simple. It’s actually a complicated trip­, involving several generations. Plus, there’s both an eastern and a western migration, with many monarchs in the West wintering as far north as the coast of California. Grow fall blooming nectar flowers to help monarchs on their long journey.

Learn more fascinating monarch butterfly facts.

coreopsisCourtesy Kandie Diskin
Monarch butterfly on a coreopsis flower

Take a look at their flight paths and the generation cycle for eastern monarchs on the chart (below) to better understand how this incredible event works. Start at the beginning of breeding season. Follow along to see what stage and location monarchs are in throughout the year.

Psst—check out 3 butterflies that look like monarchs.

Monarch Migration CycleGraphics courtesy of the National Park Service/S. Sparhawk

Next, follow our ultimate guide to growing milkweed for the best way to support monarch butterflies and caterpillars. Then head to the National Park Service’s website to keep reading about monarch migration.

Molly Jasinski
Molly Jasinski is an editor, writer and social media manager for Birds & Blooms. She’s been with the magazine since 2019 and with Trusted Media Brands since 2012. She brings more than 10 years of editorial experience to Birds & Blooms and has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. In her role, Molly works closely with bird experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman and gardening expert Melinda Myers, in addition to the Birds & Blooms freelance writers. Molly was featured in a May 2023 episode of The Thing With Feathers birdwatching podcast. She's a member of the nonprofit Friends of Wehr Nature Center in Franklin, Wisconsin, a popular location for birdwatching in southeastern Wisconsin. She goes out birding often and is still hoping to spot a tufted titmouse in the near future.