Department of Environmental Conservation

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Watchable Wildlife: Monarch Butterfly

A monarch butterfly on an orange flower
Monarch butterfly - Danaus plexippus
Photo: Susan Shafer

Did You Know?

  • Monarchs, like all other butterflies and moths, go through egg, larval (caterpillar), chrysalis (pupa), and adult stages.
  • Monarch caterpillars ingest milkweed that contains a toxic compound. The presence of this toxin is used by the monarch butterfly as a defense against predators.
  • Other butterflies, such as the Viceroy, mimic the Monarch's colors to pretend that they are also toxic to predators.
  • In late August, masses of monarch butterflies begin an epic migration stretching thousands of miles from areas across the United States and as far north as Canada (east of the Rocky Mountains) to overwinter in mountaintops of Central Mexico.
Watchable wildlife binoculars icon

What to Watch for:


3-5 inch wingspan


The wings look like stained glass, with reddish-orange coloration and conspicuous black veins bordered in black and speckled with white dots. Males have thinner veins with a black dot on the inside of the hind wings; females have thicker veins and lack the dot.

A monarch caterpiller and chrysalis on the underside of a leaf
The chrysalis (cocoon) and caterpillar
of the Monarch butterfly.
Photo: Susan Shafer

Where to Watch:

Monarch butterflies are found in open meadows and fields that usually contain a variety of wildflowers including milkweed, coastal beaches with dunes, and man-made butterfly gardens.

When to Watch:

Throughout spring and summer in the daytime.

More Information about Monarch Butterflies:

Attracting Wildlife to Your Yard (Butterfly Gardens)

Follow and track the Monarch Butterflies migration journey online by visiting the Journey North website (leaves DEC website)

A Viceroy butterly on a leaf
The Viceroy butterfly looks a lot like the
Monarch but has a U-shaped black line
on its lower wing that the Monarch
doesn't have.
Photo: Dr.Gordon E.Robertson

The Best Places to See a Monarch Butterfly:

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