Monarch butterflies on the move

Monarch butterflies on the move

How do butterflies migrate for thousands of miles?

In America and Canada, winged-creatures are stirring. Millions of them are setting off on a journey across America, arriving in Mexico. That's over 2,000 miles!

What are these mysterious migrators?

They're monarch butterflies! Not many insects migrate - monarch butterflies are a rare example.

These long-haul fliers return to the same forest each year. Some scientists think up to a billion butterflies arrive in Mexico every year. They spend the winter there, where it's warmer than North America. Although it's warmer, the butterflies still hibernate. If they tried to hibernate in North America, they wouldn't survive the cold winter.

Monarch butterflies are poisonous. Their bright colours tell predators that they are toxic. The butterflies get their toxins from milkweed, which is their only food source as caterpillars.

Monarch butterfly caterpillar_123160446

Monarch butterfly caterpillar eating milkweed

If an animal eats a monarch butterfly, they get sick. This teaches the predators to avoid monarch butterflies in future.

How do monarch butterflies know where to go?

Monarch butterflies use the Sun to navigate, like sailors used to. That's not that easy, as the Sun moves across the sky throughout the day.

Monarch butterflies have an internal body clock that helps them work out what time of day it is. This helps them to know where the Sun should be in the sky.

Once they know where the Sun should be, they use the angle of the Sun to navigate towards their destination. Scientists call this a time adjusted sun compass.