Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies go through four stages during one life cycle, and through four generations in one year.

Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly

The life cycle of the monarch butterfly is one of beauty.

Attracting Butterflies

Many gardeners plant certain flowers for their beauty and they might be hoping to attract additional wildlife to their yard.

Flowers and plants can lure your prey in for a closer look.  When they find what they seek, they stay.  Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed, which can be transplanted in your gardens.

If you are lucky enough to have butterflies lay their egg on your milkweed plant you will get a first-hand look at its life cycle.

The adult monarch, butterfly eat an all liquid diet. Plant a yard full of fruit trees, flowers and provide a water source and you will surely have butterflies.

Four Stages of the Butterfly Life cycle

Monarch butterflies go through four stages during one life cycle, and through four generations in one year. It’s a little confusing but keep reading and you will understand.

Generation One

1.) The Egg

Monarch eggs on the underside of milkweed plants

2.) The Larvae (Caterpillar)

The Monarch caterpillar or larvae eating milkweed

3.) The Pupa (Chrysalis)

Pupa Chrysalis of the Monarch Butterfly

4.) The Adult Butterfly

Adult Monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed.

Four Generations

The four generations are four different butterflies going through these four stages during one given year until it is time to start over again with stage one and generation one.


In February and March: The final generation of hibernating monarch butterflies comes out of hibernation to find a mate. They then migrate north and east in order to find a place to lay their eggs. This starts stage one and generation one of the new year for the monarch butterfly.

Raise your own monarch butterflies. This kit doesn’t include the caterpillars, they must be ordered from another company.

If you do not want to order caterpillars online look for eggs under milkweed leaves in nature.  They eat milkweed plant, so grab a healthy supply and keep the stems in water.

Release your butterflies when daytime temperatures are at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Butterflies need this warmth to fly, feed, mate and pollinate.


See the lifecycle of the Monarch in your own yard by plants seeds.

Milkweed typically grows between 12 inches and 48 inches tall, depending on the variety grown. They will attract an array of beneficial insects to the garden, and act as the Monarch Butterflies main food source.

A beautiful assortment of Swamp Milkweed, Showy Milkweed, Common Milkweed, Butterfly Milkweed, Autumn Blaze Mixed Milkweed and Mexican Milkweed (AKA Bloodflower).



In March and April: The eggs are laid on milkweed plants. They hatch into baby caterpillars, also called the larvae. It takes about four days for the eggs to hatch. Then the baby caterpillar doesn’t do much more than eat the milkweed in order to grow.


After about two weeks, the caterpillar will be fully-grown and find a place to attach itself so that it can start the process of metamorphosis. It will attach itself to a stem or a leaf using silk and transform into a chrysalis.


The monarch butterfly will emerge from the pupa and fly away, feeding on flowers and just enjoying the short life it has left, which is only about two to six weeks.

This first generation monarch butterfly will then die after laying eggs for generation number two.

Generation Number Two

May and June

The second generation of monarch butterflies is born in May and June.

How to Tell the Male and Female Monarch Apart

You can tell the male monarch butterfly from the female by the two black spots on his hind wings and the thinner black webbing within the wings.

The female’s webbing is thicker and she has no identifying wing spot.

Generation Number Three

July and August

Then the third generation will be born in July and August. These monarch butterflies will go through exactly the same four stage life cycle as the first generation did, dying two to six weeks after it becomes a beautiful monarch butterfly.

Generation Number Four

September and October

Lifecycle of a Monarch Butterfly

The fourth generation of monarch butterflies is a little bit different than the first three generations. The fourth generation is born in September and October and goes through exactly the same process as the first, second and third generations except for one part.

The fourth generation of monarch butterflies does not die after two to six weeks. Instead, this generation of monarch butterflies migrates to warmer climates like Mexico and California and will live for six to eight months until it is time to start mating process after hibernation. (See Stage 1 February and March above to start again).

It is amazing how the four generations of monarch butterflies work out so that the monarch population can continue to live on throughout the years, but not become overpopulated. Mother Nature sure has some cool ways of doing things, doesn’t she?

More Posts To Explore

Milkweed of Wisconsin
Broadwing Damsels of Wisconsin
Woodpeckers of Wisconsin


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