Email Print Share

Monarch butterfly gathering nectar

A monarch butterfly gathers nectar

A monarch butterfly gathers nectar. Monarchs fly three to five hours daily, traveling 30-50 miles. In the morning, they feed on nectar at local flowers and by late afternoon, when they stop flying, they again feed for at least 30 minutes on flower nectar.

The monarch butterfly makes one of the longest migrations on Earth, crossing an entire continent to reach a location in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. The National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded IMAX film, "Flight of the Butterflies," follows the monarch's perilous, year-long, 3,000-mile journey with stunning cinematography from an award-winning team. The film also tells the story of Canadian zoologist Fred Urquhart's 40-year search for the secret hideaway of millions of these colorful butterflies, discovered on a remote mountain peak 10,000 feet above sea level. In 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the monarch butterfly sanctuary a World Heritage Site.

In addition to raising awareness of the butterfly and the importance of protecting its habitat, the movie aims to increase understanding of the scientific process and the role of citizen scientists in that process. Thousands of volunteers across North America helped tag and track the insects during Urquhart's quest, and continue to do so through Monarch Watch. In fact it was a pair of citizen scientists working with Urquhart that first discovered the monarch's haven.

The film and accompanying educational activities were produced by the Maryland Science Center, in collaboration with SK Films and other partners. One of the partners, NSF-supported conservation biologist Karen Oberhauser of the University of Minnesota, was recently honored by the White House as a Citizen Scientist Champion of Change.

To learn more about the film and about monarchs, visit the "Flight of the Butterflies" website Here ["Flight of the Butterflies" is supported by NSF grant DRL 10-27588.] (Date of Image: May 2011)

Credit: Jim O' Leary, Maryland Science Center
See other images like this in NSF's Science360 for iPad app. To download the Science360 for iPad application for free, visit the Apple iTunes store.

Special Restrictions:
Photographer requests notification of intended image use, derivative creation or other alteration. Contact Jim O' Leary at

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

Also Available:
Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (3.1 MB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.