what do monarch caterpillars eat

What Do Monarch Caterpillars Eat?

Written by: Gemmali Dizor

The monarch caterpillar, also known as Danaus plexippus, is in the larval stage of the monarch butterfly and is a voracious eater. It feeds on the leaves of the milkweed plant, which is its only source of food.

Why Are Milkweeds So Important for Monarch Caterpillars?

Milkweeds contain a toxic substance known as cardenolides, which makes the caterpillar and adult butterfly unpalatable to predators. The monarch caterpillar has the ability to store the toxic substances in its body, making it toxic to potential predators throughout its life cycle.

What Does the Monarch Caterpillar Eat Besides Milkweed Leaves?

The monarch caterpillar is known to feed exclusively on the leaves of the milkweed plant. It does not feed on any other plants, flowers, or insects. This strict diet is what makes the monarch butterfly’s life cycle so closely tied to the milkweed plant.

How Does the Monarch Caterpillar Find Milkweed?

Monarch caterpillars have the ability to detect the scent of milkweed from a distance. Once they find a milkweed plant, they begin feeding on the leaves and grow quickly. The caterpillar will continue to feed on milkweed leaves until it is ready to form its chrysalis and undergo metamorphosis into a butterfly.

What Happens if a Monarch Caterpillar Cannot Find Milkweed?

If a monarch caterpillar cannot find a milkweed plant to feed on, it will not be able to complete its life cycle and will not be able to become a butterfly. This is why it is so important to protect milkweed habitats and to conserve and preserve these important habitats for future generations of monarch butterflies.

How Do Monarch Caterpillars Eat Milkweed Leaves?

The monarch caterpillar has a mouthpart known as a “mandible,” which it uses to bite and chew through the tough milkweed leaves. It will feed on the leaves until they are completely consumed, and then it will move on to the next milkweed plant in search of more food.

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How Much Do Monarch Caterpillars Eat?

Monarch caterpillars are known to eat an impressive amount of milkweed leaves. In fact, a single caterpillar can consume up to several hundred milkweed leaves in its lifetime! This constant feeding is necessary for the caterpillar to grow and mature into a butterfly.

What Happens When a Monarch Caterpillar Finishes Eating?

Once a monarch caterpillar has finished eating, it will look for a safe place to form its chrysalis. This is the stage of its life cycle where it undergoes metamorphosis and transforms into a butterfly. The chrysalis will protect the butterfly as it transforms and prepares to emerge as a fully-formed adult butterfly.


In conclusion, the monarch caterpillar is a fascinating creature that has a strict diet of milkweed leaves. This diet is essential for the caterpillar to grow and mature into a butterfly. The monarch butterfly’s life cycle is closely tied to the milkweed plant, and it is essential to protect and conserve these habitats for future generations of monarch butterflies. If you are interested in learning more about the monarch caterpillar and the monarch butterfly, we encourage you to continue reading this article and explore the many fascinating aspects of this incredible species.

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