Life Cycle of Monarch Butterfly

drelayaraja By drelayaraja, 6th Jun 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Science>Nature

This article is based on my observations on the Monarch butterflies. I have seen them along the milk weeds. They lay their eggs, feed and pupate on the milk weed plants.

I have taken photographs of their eggs, larvae, pupa and the emerging butterfly.

The Monarch's Life Cycle

Monarch butterfly is an elegant Arthropods belonging to the genus Danus. They have pleasing orange wings decorated with black stripes and white spots. Both males and females of monarch look similar. They originated in the United States, but they can now be found in Southern Canada, Australia, India and the Pacific Islands. Monarchs live for an average of 6 months or more.

They repose their eggs on the underside of the milkweed plant (Asclepias sp. and Calotropis procera) after feeding on the nectar of flowers. I have also seen some of them depositing their eggs on the walls, neem leaves, stems, water pipes and parked vehicles.

Emergence of Larvae and their Feeding

Metamorphosis of the monarch is spectacular, undergoing four changes in form during its lifetime. Their eggs are pin-sized and have a short incubation of 3-5 days. Tiny caterpillars measuring few millimeters emerge from these eggs.

This larval or caterpillar stage is characterized by smooth exoskeleton with stripes of black, white and greenish yellow. Two sets of feelers with hooks are present at both head and end of abdomen. The caterpillars shed their exoskeletons several times in their growth period lasting couple of weeks. A new layer of exoskeleton is formed before moulting.

The Transformation

After a fortnight of aggressive eating, the caterpillar gets ready for the next stage of development by suspending its feeding and becoming short and stout. It spins a clump of web on the milkweed and holds it with its caudal hooks, hanging downward. It remains dormant for several hours during which its stripes begin to fade and the larva swells to a larger size. After about four hours, the caterpillar uncurls stretching downward becoming long and straight, soon thereafter its exoskeleton starts to split, wrinkles and falls off.

The caterpillar now transforms into a beautiful chrysalis (pupa), shrinking until it is only 25 millimetres long. The whole process from when the caterpillar first hangs itself until it becomes a newly formed chrysalis is about 8-12 hours. Chrysalis is greenish in colour with bright golden spots on the upper rim.


Animal Behaviour, Animal Kingdom, Butterfly, Environment, Environmental Science, Environmental Waste Management, Environmnental, Insect, Metamorphosis, Natural Equilibirum, Natural Resources, Nature

Meet the author

author avatar drelayaraja
I am an Instructional designer engaged in e-learning content development. I have a passion for photography and poetry.

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author avatar Retired
11th Jun 2010 (#)


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author avatar satan fury
15th Jun 2010 (#)

I love monarch butterflies. They are so beautiful. A well-written and well-presented article.

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author avatar Retired
22nd Jun 2010 (#)


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author avatar smoothoperator
26th Jul 2010 (#)


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