Monarch Waystation
Photo: Anna Barr © California Academy of Sciences

To celebrate 'Tis the Season for Science at the California Academy of Sciences, seasonal animal behavior and adaptation information is on display throughout the museum. In the Naturalist Center, we are showcasing the amazing migration of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). The population found east of the Rocky Mountains migrate up to three thousand miles south to overwintering sites in central Mexico. Monarch butterflies that live west of the Rocky Mountains spend the winter in the coastal forests of California. Although some butterflies live long enough to complete the annual migration cycle, most of the monarchs heading south are navigating to the winter roosts without having been there before! How they are able to navigate remains a mystery and scientists continue to research this amazing behavior.

You can visit the Naturalist Center to learn more about the monarch butterfly life cycle, migration patterns and current conservation efforts. Throughout the winter at the Naturalist Center, specimens will be on display and monarch butterfly-themed games and resources will be available. You can also take part in the following activities:

  • Make a monarch butterfly using printed origami paper and add it to one of our winter roosting areas!
  • Learn about "monarch waystation" gardens and how you can help monarch butterflies thrive throughout the year by ensuring host plants like milkweed species are abundant.
  • On Thursdays at 11:30 a.m. join us for Specimen Spotlight to learn more about the butterfly life cycle, behavior and migration patterns. Get a close-up view of butterfly wings!

We also encourage you to visit The Xerces Society and Monarch Watch to learn more about monarch butterfly migration and conservation issues.

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