Date: Fri, 27 Jun 1997 14:37:47 -0500
Some friends of mine and I were debating the life expectancy
of one monarch butterfly. Do you know how long they live and
how far they go in one day (after they turn to butterflies)?
It's nice to hear the debate about the monarch continues.
I have become more and more fascinated with the monarch
each day. Well I didn't know the answers, so I went
searching (I learned a little more in the process). Do they
have monarchs where you live? I have seen so many in the
last few weeks here in Minnesota.
Thanks for asking the questions.
Back to your questions:
I looked on the Journey North site in the Ask the Expert area
and found this response from Dr. Karen Oberhauser. Karen is
an entomolgist who studies the monarch butterfly.
Q. How long do Monarchs live?
A. This depends on when they live (summer or winter), and
also varies a lot among individuals (just like it does it humans).
In the summer, adults live from 2 to 6 weeks in captivity,
and probably about that long in the wild. The ones that
migrate live longer, from August or September to about
April (although a lot die before this). When people hear
this, they say they'd rather be a migratory monarchs, but
these butterflies probably face many more risks, and are
likely to have a smaller chance of getting offspring into
the next generation.
The times I told you only refer to the adults. It takes
them about a month to go from the egg to adult stage,
so we should really add four weeks to those times.
After all, we count human childhood in the
Q. How far do monarchs travel in one generation?
A. It depends on the generation. The ones that emerge in
the late summer and fall in the northern US will travel
all the way to their overwintering sites in Mexico, and
then about half way back in the spring. How far is this
(measure it on a map)? Other generations don't travel
And then I found this in a children's book:
Monarch Butterfly - By: Gail Gibbons
"Sometimes they fly up to 12 miles an hour and
almost 100 miles in one day. There could be over
1,000 butterflies traveling together."
Karen Wilkinson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Content Developer, Science Learning Network
Science Museum of Minnesota
30 East Tenth Street
St Paul, MN 55101