Monarch butterflies

Rouge National Urban Park

Monarch butterflies are not only incredibly stunning to look at, they are an important part of our ecosystem and important pollinators. Read more to learn about their lifecycle and their unique migration patterns from Ontario to Mexico.

Monarch Life Cycle

The general lifecycle of the monarch butterfly begins with an egg. In 4-5 days, it will hatch into a larva that will eat its way around its home, the milkweed plant. This larva will live for about two weeks and then the chrysalis (cocoon) forms. During this stage, the chrysalis will hang for about 12-16 days, until a beautiful monarch butterfly emerges! And soon enough, the life cycle of the monarch butterfly repeats.

Milkweed Plants

What makes the monarch butterfly special compared to other species is that it completely relies on the milkweed plant to eat and live. This plant makes the monarch butterfly toxic and unpleasant tasting for its predators giving this butterfly an upper hand to survive. This is why it is important to plant milkweed and leave them undisturbed to expand and increase homes for the monarch.

Monarch Migration

Imagine four one-way road trips from Toronto to New York City (NYC); that’s over 30 hours of driving time! To travel to its final destination in Mexico, the monarch butterfly makes a 3,000km+ trip down south to Mexico to overwinter. This takes a typical, large and healthy butterfly about 45 days!

The monarch butterfly may live through two generations in Ontario before making the long trip down south. Their bodies are alerted to migrate south once daylight hours start to decline. Once they arrive in Mexico in November, the monarchs will mate in March, before making their way back north to Ontario and other states and provinces throughout North America. Interestingly enough, the monarch will also go through several generations before arriving in Ontario in June.

How you can help

There are many ways to help this species at risk, but one of the easiest ways is to plant milkweed! There are many varieties of milkweed that are native to Ontario, including common and swamp milkweed that you can grow from seeds or seedlings. Keep an eye out to see if you spot any monarch eggs, larva or chrysalis on your plant!

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