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Monarch Butterfly



Photo: Lake County Forest Preserves 

Don’t be fooled by my quiet demeanor. I’m tough. I’m resilient. My family journeyed here over three generations from central Mexico with no car, no plane, not even a bike; just wings. Now I’m looking for a gosh darn milkweed leaf to lay my eggs. Oh! See that green beauty under those pink flowers? – that’s it!...milkweed. I’m home. 

The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) can be seen across the Chicago Wilderness Region during the summer months. They migrate from Mexico in the spring and return in the fall. You may even spot a monarch caterpillar on milkweed plants, the only plants that monarchs lay their eggs on. 

The monarch butterfly population has dropped more than 80% across North America over the last two decades. This is due in part to a loss of breeding habitat (i.e., milkweed) in their northern summer homes.


  • The monarch is often confused with the viceroy butterfly, which mimics the monarch's appearance to trick predators. 
  • Monarch butterflies can travel 25-30 miles in one day! 
  • It takes multiple generations for monarchs to travel from Mexico to the Chicago Wilderness Region. You can check out their current location on migration maps like this one. If you see a monarch, you can add your observation to the map.
  • Monarch have important cultural significance. In Mexico, the butterflies return near El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), symbolizing the returning spirits of those who have passed.



Transform your garden, backyard, or business landscape into a monarch oasis by planting milkweed.

Monarchs need milkweed; this plant provides a home for their eggs and the only food their caterpillars will eat. Learn more about selecting your milkweed plants, finding native seeds, and the planting process.



Chicago Wilderness works with three lead partners, The Field Museum, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, to drive monarch butterfly conservation efforts. The lead partners, in turn, coordinate with numerous other organizations across the region. The monarch conservation effort is part of the Chicago Wilderness Priority Species Focus Area.


Sources: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Monarch Lab