Monarch Butterfly Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Heather Pier

Heather has taught high school and college science courses, and has a master's degree in geography-climatology.

Learn about the monarch butterfly and its life cycle. The monarch is one of the most famous butterflies in the world, and you may even have gotten to watch one grow up in your classroom.

What Is a Monarch Butterfly?

Have you ever raised a butterfly in your classroom at school? If you have, then you have probably seen a monarch butterfly before. The monarch butterfly is a common butterfly in North America and can be found in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Look familiar? If it does, then you have seen a monarch butterfly before!

The Beginning of the Life Cycle of a Monarch

Where do monarch butterflies come from? Butterflies are insects, which means they begin their lives as eggs.

The white dots in the red circles are monarch eggs.

When a mother monarch lays her eggs, she lays them on a type of plant called the milkweed. The eggs are as small as the tip of your pencil.

These caterpillars can only eat milkweed.

When the egg hatches, it hatches into a very tiny caterpillar. The newly hatched caterpillar immediately begins to eat the milkweed plant they were laid on.

The only food a monarch caterpillar can eat is milkweed. It would be like if you could only eat pizza. If you couldn't find pizza, you wouldn't be able to eat.

The caterpillar will do nothing but eat for several weeks. They eat so much they get too big for their skin, just like when you have to get new clothes because you got too big for your old ones.

Once a caterpillar eats enough food that it is done growing, it can start to become a butterfly.

This big caterpillar will become a butterfly soon.

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

To go from being a caterpillar to being a butterfly, it has to form a chrysalis. A chrysalis is sort of like a sleeping bag that caterpillars form around their bodies and seal themselves inside.

This green pod is a monarch chrysalis.

They will spend a few weeks in their chrysalis. When they are in the chrysalis, their bodies begin to transform into butterflies. They enter the chrysalis as a caterpillar and hatch out as an adult monarch butterfly.

When the butterfly is ready to hatch the chrysalis changes from green to clear.

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