State Symbol: Illinois Official Insect Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
Monarch butterflies are easily recognizable by their orange and black wings. They are about 2 inches long, and from 3.5 to 5 inches in wingspread. They can be found in fields, meadows, and along roadsides drinking the nectar of milkweed and other flowers. Monarch butterflies are found throughout the United States. In Illinois they are commonly found from May through October. They winter in the mountains of central Mexico, and migrate northward in the spring. Monarch lay eggs on milkweed plants. The eggs hatch, the larva eat the leaves of the milkweed, and an adult emerges from the chrysalis, all in about 20 to 33 days.
In 1974, a Dennis School third-grade class in Decatur proposed the orange and black Monarch Butterfly as the State’s Official Insect. Representative Webber Borchers of Decatur introduced a bill in the General Assembly, and the schoolchildren lobbied for its passage. In 1975, the bill passed, and the Dennis School class watched Governor Daniel Walker sign it into law.
R.R. Irwin and J.C. Downey, 1973. Annotated Checklist of Butterflies, Illinois Natural History Survey, Biological Notes, No. 81 60pp.
P.A. Opler and V. Malikul, 1992. A Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Compnay, 396pp.
F.A. Urquhart, 1960. The Monarch Butterfly, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 361pp. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/bflyusa/il/92.htm Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center site