The monarch butterfly has bright orange, black and white wings that warn predators away. Any animals that try to feed on this butterfly find out quickly that it is both noxious and toxic.
The monarch butterfly ranges throughout North America. It migrates 3,000 miles every year from Canada and northern parts of the United States to the Sierra Nevada Mountain range in California and Mexico for the winter. A group of monarch butterflies is called a flutter. Thousands of butterflies in a flutter often rest on a single tree during the long migration.
The monarch butterfly hatches from its egg as a larva. It lives on milkweed until it reaches maturity. Once the larva becomes a caterpillar, it surrounds itself in a protective shell or chrysalis where it stays until its transformation into a butterfly.
The monarch butterfly only lives between two to six weeks, maturing and producing the next generation before dying. Three generations are born, live and die during the summer without ever making the migration journey. The fourth generation, born in the late summer and early fall, makes the 3,000-mile round trip. This generation lives up to nine months, long enough to fly down and winter in California and Mexico and return to the ancestral breeding grounds before dying.