The Monarch is the largest butterfly seen in the British Isles and is also one of our rarest migrants. Known for its ability to travel large distances, the migrations in North America are one of the greatest natural phenomena in the world - where the adult butterflies can migrate from as far north as Canada to the overwintering grounds in Mexico, the west coast of California and Florida.
Millions of the butterflies make a 2,000-mile (3,220km) journey each year from Canada to pass the winter in central Mexico’s warmer weather. But climate change, pesticides and the incursion of illegal loggers have seen the forests dwindle and with them, the number of monarchs.
First recorded in the UK in 1876.
Size and Family
- Family: Nymphalids
- Size: Large
- Wing Span Range (male to female): 95-100mm
- Butterfly Conservation priority: Low
- European status: Not assessed
Caterpillars feed on various Milkweeds (Asclepias species), a plant which is not native to the British Isles, and this explains why the butterfly has not been recorded to have bred here.
A rare migrant to the UK but in their native home of the United States, the butterfly can be found almost anywhere that their foodplant grows, including farmland, gardens and even roadsides. The Monarch overwinters in sheltered forests made up of Eucalyptus trees, Monterey pines and Monterey cypresses.
- Countries: England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales
- Recorded throughout Britain and Ireland as a very rare immigrant with a concentration of sightings in the south-west, notably from Cornwall and Scilly Isles.
Monarch (male/underwing) - Pete Withers
Monarch (male/upperwing) - Iain Leach
Monarch (female/underwing) - Adam Gor
Monarch (underwing) - Adam Gor
Monarch (female/upperwing) - Pete Withers
Monarch (Male/On Milkweed) - Paul Davies
Monarch (Male/On Milkweed)
Monarch Migration Study - Dave Wendelken
Monarch Migration Study
Monarch - Dean Morley
Monarch (egg) - Peter Eeles
Monarch (caterpillar) - David Morris
Monarch (caterpillar) - Paul Davies
Monarch (pupa) - Dean Morley