Preserving the Monarch Butterfly

What Do Monarch Butterflies Eat?

what do monarch butterflies eat
Butterfly Weed, also known as Milkweed

A common question about monarchs is what do monarch butterflies eat? But, the proper answer depends on which stage of their life they are in. The monarch diet changes based on what part of the monarch life cycle they are in at that given time. When monarchs are first born, known as the “larva” stage, the first thing they eat is their eggshell. After the larva has eaten its eggshell, it continues to grow by eating the milkweed plant that it is born into.

There are many different types of milkweed plant the monarch caterpillar will eat, and it usually depends on their geographic location. The most common types of milkweed that monarch caterpillars eat are tropical milkweed (found in parts of California, Florida, and Texas), swamp milkweed (found in most of the US with the exception of the west coast), swan or balloon plant (native to Southeast Africa), purple milkweed (found in most of the Eastern half of the US), common milkweed (found in most of the US and Canada, with the exception of the western areas), showy milkweed (found in the western part of the US), and butterfly weed (found in most of the US and Eastern Canada).

Once a monarch caterpillar has fully grown and goes through its metamorphosis process to become a butterfly, it then begins to feed on the nectar of flowers, the juices from fruit, and water. The butterfly has an almost ALL liquid diet, and uses its long, straw-like mouth (also known as it’s “proboscis”) to suck up the liquids.

If you would like to try and attract more monarch butterflies to your yard, the best way to do so is to plant plenty of flowers, and/or plants that bear fruit. Additionally, you can also buy special butterfly feeders that are brightly colored and made to look like flowers, and place a sugar water mixture into them. This is both a healthy and delicious food source for them, as it’s easy for them to eat and provides them with plenty of the energy they need.

The Monarch Butterfly is most attracted to flowers that are red or purple in color. So if you’re trying to get monarchs to flock to your garden, be sure to plant plenty of red and purple flowers!

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