Monarch Butterfly

(Danaus plexippus)


Monarch Butterfly IUCN NOT EVALUATED (NE)


Facts about this animal

Unlike most other insects in temperate climates, Monarch butterflies cannot survive a long cold winter. Instead, they spend the winter in roosting spots. Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains travel to small groves of trees along the California coast. Those east of the Rocky Mountains fly farther south to the forests high in the mountains of Mexico. The monarch's migration is driven by seasonal changes. Daylength and temperature changes influence the movement of the Monarch.

Monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed and nothing else. The larvae and the adult butterflies retain the poisonous glycosides from the milkweed so they become poisonous to the predators. This is a highly effective defense strategy, shielding them against almost all predators, as potential predators learn to avoid these species quickly after attempting to eat them.

Did you know?
that monarch butterflies are left alone by birds because they taste awful? This is because of the toxic sap contained in the leaves eaten by the butterflies in their caterpillar phase. The caterpillars are immune to the toxins, which stay inside their bodies even after they go through pupation and become butterflies.


Name (Scientific) Danaus plexippus
Name (English) Monarch Butterfly
Name (French) Monarque
Name (German) Monarchfalter
Name (Spanish) Mariposa Monarca
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Appendix II



Photo Copyright by
Kenneth Dwain Harrelson



Range South Canada, USA, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, India, Hawaii and other Pacific Islands, sometimes in western Europe
Habitat Fields, meadows, weedy areas, marshes and roadsides
Wild population Unknown. The species has not yet been classified by the IUCN
Zoo population 80 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo

Monarch Butterfly


How this animal should be transported

For air transport of caterpillars, Container Note 63 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed. There is no Container Requirement for pupae.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Derek Ramsey

Why do zoos keep this animal

Monarch butterflies are of educational interest as an example of a migratory insect species and because of their "milkweed defense strategy".