The Monarch Butterfly in North America

Monarch Butterfly

The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is among the most recognized, studied, and loved of all of North America’s insects. Children study monarchs in school. Researchers and citizen scientists track their migration and breeding. Conservationists and government agencies are concerned about threats to breeding, migration, and wintering habitats.

The annual migration cycle of the monarch butterfly has been described as the most spectacular in the insect world. It has been called an “endangered natural phenomenon”. This species and its migration are dependent upon conservation of habitats in all three North American countries: Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Awareness of the monarch butterfly’s life cycle and habitat requirements is essential for their survival and an important step in the conservation of this animal. Many government agencies, organizations, and individuals across North America are working on projects to conserve monarch habitats and their migration.

Monarch Butterfly

The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) is a partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs working together to support and coordinate efforts to protect the monarch migration across the lower 48 United States. The MJV is committed to a science-based approach to monarch conservation work, guided by the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (2008) (PDF, 5.6 MB).

Monarch Butterfly

Federal public land management agencies and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign are taking an active role in public outreach and conservation by creating pollinator gardens that provide habitat for the monarch butterfly.


New Plan Aims to Reverse Monarch Butterfly Decline

Posted May 15, 2018

Monarch butterfly. Photo by Ed Boggess.

The Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (MAFWA) welcomes public comments through May 31, 2018, on a draft conservation plan that provides a blueprint for reversing the decline of the eastern monarch butterfly population.

The Mid-America Monarch Conservation Strategy builds on existing efforts of state, federal, and local agencies and private organizations and individuals. It covers a 16-state region stretching from Texas to the Upper Midwest that encompasses the primary production and migratory habitat areas for eastern monarchs. Other eastern monarch states are also collaborating with the plan

For more information, a copy of the draft strategy, and how to submit comments, please visit the MAFWA website at Mid-America Monarch Conservation Strategy.

New Handout! Why Grow and Sell Native Milkweed?

Posted April 23, 2018

Milkweed seedlings. Photo by Wndy Caldwell.

The Monarch Joint Venture is pleased to announce the release of a new handout: “Why Grow and Sell Native Milkweed?

This handout provides the public, gardeners, and plant growers and nurseries with a concise description of the importance of native milkweeds and their value to monarchs and to the plant industry! With tips about overcoming barriers to growing milkweed, resources for further reading and examples of native milkweeds for regions across the U.S., this new handout will be a valuable resource for anyone interested in the native milkweed industry. If you’re not a grower or nursery, consider bringing this resource to your local nursery manager if they aren’t already selling pesticide-free native milkweed!

Download the handout…

New Guidelines for Protecting California’s Butterfly Groves

Posted January 23, 2018

Zumwalt Prairie Preserve in Oregon wildflowers.Monarchs Clustering on Eucalyptus at Woodlands Village, Nipomo, CA. Photo: Xerces Society, Carly Voight.

To guide land managers, landowners, and community groups who wish to implement management actions to protect, improve, and restore monarch overwintering habitat, the Xerces Society partnered with Stu Weiss of Creekside Center for Earth Observation to publish Protecting California’s Butterfly Groves: Management Guidelines for Monarch Butterfly Overwintering Habitat.

The Monarch Highway Poster

Trees for Bees poster.

Posted June 14, 2017

The landscape that parallels roadways, like the I-35 corridor, can provide natural habitat to support the annual migration of the monarch butterfly. The Pollinator Partnership, including a number of state, local and federal government agencies, corporations, and organizations collaborating and supporting pollinators and conservation of their habitat developed this poster to celebrate the monarch butterfly.

The I-35 corridor follows Interstate 35 through six states from Minnesota south to Texas, following the central flyway of monarch migration. In 2016, these states signed a memorandum of understanding that informally named I-35 the “Monarch Highway” and agreed to implement coordinated management practices along the corridor that benefit monarchs and other pollinators.

Visit the Pollinator Partnership to see the poster and read more about The Monarch Highway…

Conservation Status and Ecology of the Monarch Butterfly in the United States

Posted February 9, 2016

Publication cover.

Prepared by NatureServe and The Xerxes Society for Invertebrate Conservation for the Forest Service, the report, Conservation Status and Ecology of the Monarch Butterfly in the United States (PDF, 10.2 MB), summarizes the monarch butterfly’s North American distribution, life history, population, current conservation status, and potential causes of decline. In addition, there is a set of breeding and overwintering habitat management recommendations. This report aims to inform government agencies charged with biodiversity protection, as well as conservation organizations and the public in general about the threats to and current conservation status of this much-loved, iconic insect.

You Can Help Save the Monarch Butterfly!

Posted September 9, 2015

Monarch Butterfly Migration Map

Every backyard can become an oasis for monarchs and other pollinators, even in cities. Schools, youth and community groups, businesses, and state and local governments can engage in planting native milkweed and protecting monarch habitat along roadsides, rights of way, and other public and private lands.

Report your sightings!

Also, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "Save the Monarch Butterfly" web page…

Propagating Native Milkweeds for Restoring Monarch Butterfly Habitat

Posted August 31, 2015

International Plant Propagator's Society Combined Proceedings, Volume 64, 2014 cover.

The number of monarch butterflies is rapidly declining. Milkweeds, which are the sole food source for monarch caterpillars, have also experienced a decline throughout the breeding range of this butterfly. Milkweeds can be grown from seeds or vegetatively from root cuttings or rhizomes. The International Plant Propagator's Society published this article in their Combined Proceedings, Volume 64, 2014.

Read the article about propagating milkweeds for restoring monarch butterfly habitat (PDF, 324 KB)…

Conservation and Management of Monarch Butterflies: A Strategic Framework

Posted March 18, 2015

Conservation and Management of Monarch Butterflies cover.

The Forest Service issues this timely and critically needed document, Conservation and Management of Monarch Butterflies: A Strategic Framework (PDF, 8.8 MB). This framework will guide the Forest Service to effectively and efficiently use available resources and engage public and private partnerships in taking action for the conservation of the monarch butterfly.

Monarch Butterflies Brochures

Posted March 18, 2015

Monarchs and Milkweeds. Monarch butterfly adult and larvae.

During spring and summer, monarchs breed throughout the U.S. and southern Canada. In the fall, adults of an eastern population migrate to Mexico, flying up to 3,000 miles. The following spring, these butteries leave their overwintering sites and fly northward to lay their eggs on milkweeds and a few other plants in the dogbane family. In Florida, some non-migratory individuals remain and breed year-round.

Monarch Waystation

Posted October 8, 2014

Forest Nursery Notes Summer 2014 cover.

The Summer 2014 Forest Nursery Notes features specialized pollinator gardens that provide habitat for monarch butterflies on their long migrations, "Monarch Waystation".

Forest, conservation, and native plant nurseries can provide a valuable public service by growing milkweed and other flowering nectar plants that will help create pollinator habitat. Even forest nurseries who primarily grow tree seedlings can convert some marginal land into pollinator gardens.

See Forest Nursery Notes Summer 2014 (PDF, 5.0 MB)…

Upper Peninsula Invasives Council Newsletter, April and May 2014 Edition

Posted April 7, 2014

Bumblebee Conservator cover page.

The latest edition of the Upper Peninsula Invasive Council newsletter is available. It includes an article on page 7 about the Central Upper Peninsula Cooperative Weed Management Area (CUPCWMA) receiving funding this year from the Monarch Joint Venture. This will fund project efforts through 2016 to study treatment methods for black swallow-wort at Peninsula Point in the western Hiawatha National Forest. The money will also fund additional surveying for possible unknown populations. Work as-sociated with this project will be done by The Hiawatha National Forest and Superior Watershed Partnership who are CUPCWMA partners.

See the newsletter (PDF, 3.1 MB)…

Also see Celebrating Wildflowers News for news about monarch butteflies…

Monarch Brochure

MonarchLIVE wing

Look at our brochure: Monarch Butterfly, North America's Migrating Insect (PDF, 8.4 MB)

Habitat Area Sign