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This is the caterpillar of a Monarch butterfly. These butterflies are migratory, but there is something very special about their migration. What is it?


During the spring and summer, Monarch butterflies live very short lives. Their eggs hatch 4 days after being laid. It takes about two weeks for the caterpillar to be full grown. At that time, it forms a chrysalis, and over the next ten days the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. After emerging from the chrysalis, the adult butterfly lives for two to six weeks, and then dies. Its entire live cycle is about two months.

In the fall, something strange happens. The Monarchs that emerge then have a much longer lifespan, which allows them to migrate. Monarchs east of the Rockies fly south to Mexico, while butterflies west of the Rockies fly south to Pacific Grove, California. Some of these butterflies travel 2,500 miles to reach their wintering trees. These fall Monarchs live up to eight months, long enough to last through the winter and return to their spring home, where they lay eggs and start the cycle again.