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THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY The Monarch Butterfly, or Danaus plexippus , is one of the most beautiful and fascinating insects in North America. Unfortunately, due to habitat loss, the species is in rapid decline.

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Presentation Transcript

The Monarch Butterfly, or Danaus plexippus, is one of the most beautiful and fascinating insects in North America.

Unfortunately, due to habitat loss, the species is in rapid decline.


In Order to Help Save the Monarch Population, we must attempt to understand the species, including:

  • The Monarch’s Incredible Lifecycle
  • The Monarch’s dependence on the Milkweed Plant
  • The Monarch’s Impressive

Migration Patterns

  • The Loss of the Monarch’s

Winter Roosting Habitat

  • And What We Can Do to

Help Save this Beautiful Insect

Follow the link to view a video clip showing the journey of several Monarchs from caterpillar- to chrysalis- to adult butterfly:

the milkweed plant and its importance to the monarch s life cycle
The Milkweed Plant and Its Importance to the Monarch’s Life Cycle:

As the Life Cycle slide indicated, Monarchs lay their eggs exclusively on the Milkweed plant because it is the only source of food Monarch Larvae naturally feed on.




There are many species of Milkweed in North America that can support the Monarch, but the two most common species in our area include:





and swamp milkweed




so why milkweed
So Why Milkweed?

When Monarch Larvae feed on Milkweed they consume and collect a toxin that exists in the leaves of the plant.

The Monarchs, having an immune digestive system, then use the toxins from the milkweed as a defense mechanism.

The bright coloration of the Monarch serves as a warning to its predators of its bitterly unpleasant taste and ability to make some predators vomit.

Once an unwary bird catches and eats a Monarch you can bet that bird will never again prey on a Monarch.


The Viceroy Butterfly has a similar coloration and pattern to the Monarch Butterfly which acts as a defense mechanism. The Viceroy mimics the Monarch in hopes that predators will avoid it thinking that it has the same bitter, unpleasant taste.



The black stripe on the bottom portion of the viceroy butterfly’s wings is the main distinction between the two.

male or female
Male or Female?

Did you know that it is possible to tell the difference between male and female Monarch Butterflies?

Thicker black veins usually means female

Black dot means male butterfly



Male Monarch Butterflies have a small black spot on the lower portion of each of their wings that female Monarchs do not have. Also, female Monarchs tend to have thicker black vein lines in their wings.

the amazing monarch migration
The Amazing Monarch Migration

Over the span of four generations, Monarchs complete an incredible migration to one of three overwintering sites in southern areas of the continent. These sites include coastal California, the Neovolcanic belt of Mexico, and the southern tip of Florida.

East Coast Migration Route

The Neovolcanic Belt


Follow the link to view a video clip of Monarch Butterfly expert, Professor Lincoln Brower of Sweet Briar College, explain the Monarch migration and overwintering:

tagging monarchs
Tagging Monarchs

In order to learn more about the huge numbers of migrating Monarchs and the great migration itself, Monarch tracking programs have been developed where individual Monarchs are caught, numbered and tagged at no harm to the insect.

the village of angangueo
The Village of Angangueo

Angangueo, a small Mexican village, is located next to one of the most important overwintering sites for the migrating Monarchs.

The village is attempting to take steps to prevent the illegal logging of nearby forests to protect the Monarch, but it is a challenge.


Some of the lands around Angangueo have been designated as part of a Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve under the UN Biosphere Program, which is a positive step towards protecting the Monarchs.

Above is a picture of Monarchs in flight taken on the Biosphere Reserve.

illegal logging

Illegal logging of the roosting forests in Mexico of the overwintering Monarchs is one of the leading causes of the Monarch Butterfly’s recent population declines.

the consequences of illegal logging
The Consequences of Illegal Logging

The thinning of the forests caused by illegal logging reduces the Monarchs’ habitat. It also makes the overwintering Butterflies susceptible to wind and temperature changes that kill hundreds of millions of Monarchs like the ones shown below.

Unfortunately, tourism, a promising economic alternative to illegal logging, is difficult to promote because of the language barrier.


By establishing the Sister Cities International Program between our local communities and the Village of Angangueo, we would have opportunities to collaborate with the village and contribute to the preservation of the Monarch.

A Sign Marking a Butterfly Reserve in Mexico

Learn More About the Sister City Program at

a sister city success
A Sister City Success

Arlington, VA founded a Sister City Association under Sister Cities International. They are a Sister City to Aachen, Germany, Coyoacan, Mexico, Reims, France, and San Miguel, El Salvador.

Participation in Sister Cities International has provided:

  • Arts and Culture Partnerships
  • Economic Development Opportunities
  • Educational and Professional Exchanges
  • Global Tourism and Visitation
how can you help
How Can You Help?

There are several ways you can make a difference in the preservation of the Monarch Butterfly as well as many other beautiful butterfly and native plant species.

you can plant a native plant butterfly garden
You Can Plant a Native Plant Butterfly Garden

To Have a Successful Butterfly Garden You Will Need:

  • At least 5 hours of sunlight daily
  • Shallow water sources (such as small mud puddles)
  • Shelter from harsh winds
  • Flat stones for resting and sunning
  • Native nectar plants
  • And native caterpillar host plants
how to get started on your butterfly garden
How to Get Started on Your Butterfly Garden

Here are some useful local contacts and resources that can help you with planning a native butterfly garden:

  • Master Gardeners Rockbridge Extension Office P.O. Drawer 897 Lexington, VA 24450 540-463-4734
  • Boxerwood Gardens
    • 963 Ross Rd.
    • Lexington, VA 24450
    • 540-463-2697
    • E-mail:

Map of Boxerwood Gardens


The Live Monarch Foundation


At, you can:

- Sign up to receive free Milkweed seed packets

- Order live Monarch adults to release in your garden

- Learn more about their work saving the Monarch

- And much more!

looking for a more laid back approach
Looking for a More Laid-Back Approach?

Let part of your backyard or acreage grow wild and natural.

Excessive mowing and spraying of pesticides is harmful to Monarch Butterfly habitat. So in this case, less work can mean more reward!


You can also certify your yard or property as Backyard Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.Follow the link to watch a video clip about certifying your yard:


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