Photos & Videos of the monarch butterfly life cycle
LATEST MONARCH NEWS (3/17/20): The numbers are in for overwintering monarchs in Mexico, and the news is not good. It appears our eastern monarch population has declined by 53% this past year. We have already been informed of the dire state of our western population which declined 86% in the last two years.
There are many things we can do to help bring our monarchs back, the most significant being to preserve habitat. Monarchs need native flowering plants and milkweed to complete their life cycle and their long migration, so please consider planting a pollinator garden with early and late blooming native flowers for migration, planting native milkweed for monarch caterpillars to feed on and complete their life cycle, and avoiding the use of pesticides, which kills many of our native species. Here are resources for native species and milkweed seeds in your area:
• You can also request your local nursery carry natives that help monarchs as well as other pollinators.
Photos of a monarch's life cycle
The monarch life cycle can be broken down into four separate stages. Each begins and ends within a range of time. 1) Egg - 3-5 days in this stage once laid 2) Caterpillar (larva) - five instars (when they shed or molt their skin) - 10-14 days in this stage 3) Chrysalis (pupa) - 10-20 days in this stage 4) Butterfly (adult) - 2 weeks to 8 months depending on generation/migration
Videos of monarch metamorphosis
The above Naturedigger video shows how the monarch larva sheds its skin or molts. When this happens, it enters into the next "instar" or stage of larval development. This happens five times. Watch the next video to see the final molt before the larva becomes a pupa or chrysalis. Go to the 5:29 mark, to see removal of the head capsule.
This is the final molt after the larva or caterpillar reaches its fifth instar. Once the last skin has been shed and the pupa or chrysalis has formed, they will remain in this stage for 10 to 20 days. Watch the video below to see the final stage of metamorphosis. The actual "eclosing" of a monarch butterfly. It's pretty incredible, you may want to go grab some popcorn!
This is the final stage of metamorphosis when the adult monarch butterfly "ecloses" or hatches from the chrysalis. It's one of nature's most spectacular miracles.