Monarch Glossary

One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself,
“What if I had never seen this before?

What if I knew I would never see it again?
Rachel Carson
  • Chrysalis / chrysalides (pl) – When the caterpillar splits its skin for the last time, instead of a caterpillar emerging, a shiny green shell, called the chrysalis, is revealed. The chrysalis hangs for about 10-14 days. Inside, the caterpillar transforms into an adult butterfly.
  • Danaus plexippus – scientific name for the monarch butterfly.
  • Eclose / eclosing – the opening of the chrysalis, when the butterfly emerges
  • Frass – caterpillar bodily waste, poop
  • Habitat – the natural environment the butterflies need to survive, places that provide plenty of milkweed, nectar flowers, water and trees for cover
  • Instar – the five stages of growth of the caterpillar; a new instar phase starts each time the caterpillar sheds its old skin – the first instar starts when the caterpillar first emerges from the egg, the fifth instar ends when the caterpillar sheds its skin for the last time as it forms the chrysalis
  • Migrate / migration – leaving where the butterfly was born, to fly to a warmer climate for the winter. At the end of summer, butterflies born west of the Rocky Mountains generally migrate to southern California. Those born east of the Rockies generally migrate to specific mountainous areas of Mexico.
  • Metamorphosis – the process of changing from an egg, through all the stages, to a butterfly
  • Molt / molting – the process of the caterpillar shedding its old skin
  • Predators – insects or animals that hunt, attack or kill another
  • Pupa – another word for the chrysalis
  • Pupate / pupating – the process of changing from a caterpillar into a chrysalis
  • Sanctuary / sanctuaries – a place where monarchs gather, generally where local rules help protect the habitat and the butterflies in it. The Mexican government has designated areas as sanctuaries, to help protect the butterflies and their habitat.

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