University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

Peer Reviewed

I am the monarch butterfly! I am found all throughout the United States and even southern Canada. I am most well-known for the yearly trip back and forth (called a migration) that I make every fall and spring. Monarchs in Nevada and other western states head to the coast of California, but those in the east head all the way to central Mexico. When we arrive, we hang from trees in big numbers, waiting until spring to head north. We do this to avoid cold weather, returning in spring when the plants we need begin to grow again.

Why am I important?

Though it is a very large and pretty butterfly, there are many dangers to monarchs. In California and Mexico, houses and farming remove plants the monarch needs for food, and trees the monarch needs to live on during the winter. In Nevada, houses and farms take away milkweed plants the caterpillars need. Because monarchs need milkweed, it is very important to save places that have milkweed plants, and you can help by planting milkweed in your yard to attract monarchs! Scientists have also learned that monarchs can be harmed by pesticides, chemicals that are used to protect plants from being eaten by different types of insects.

What is my life cycle?

Lifecycle of a Monarch butterfly: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly


Like all butterflies, monarchs start out as small eggs laid under a leaf. Monarchs have to find just the right type of plant - called a milkweed - for the caterpillars to eat. No other plants will do!

Lifecycle of a Monarch butterfly: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly


After the caterpillar hatches from the egg, it eats leaves for three weeks, growing to almost 2 inches long.

Lifecycle of a Monarch butterfly: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly


After growing to full size, the caterpillar turns into a pupa, called a chrysalis, bright-green with gold spots.

Lifecycle of a Monarch butterfly: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly


The monarch adult comes out of the chrysalis after 10 days. As an adult, the monarch looks for milkweed to lay eggs on, repeating the cycle.


Egg and chrysalis photos by Mark Rainey.
Caterpillar and adult photos by Kevin Burls.
Adult feature photo by Master Gardener Becky Colwell.


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Follow the life cycle from egg to adult

The egg must hatch on the proper host plant, or it will not be able to develop into a butterfly.


Special thanks to Marcia Moffitt for the graphic design and formatting of the print version of this publication, which is available upon request, to Mark Rainey for the photos of the egg and chrysalis and to Master Gardener Becky Colwell for the adult Monarch butterfly feature photo.

This work is supported by Crop Protection and Pest Management Extension Implementation Program C-REEMS Grant Proposal Number: 2017-04410 GRANT # 12398398 “Nevada Extension Implementation Program 2017” from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.