Make plastic bottle butterflies with this easy recycled art activity and learn about Monarch butterfly migration.
Monarch butterflies are native to North America with the largest population located in southern Canada and northern United States. We have a ton of them in Wisconsin that we enjoy seeing every year.
Why do Monarch butterflies migrate?
Butterflies, like all organisms, require food, water, and shelter to survive. When the days begin to get shorter and temperatures start to fall in autumn, Monarch butterflies begin their migration to the south in order to find adequate shelter and food to survive.
Monarch Butterfly Migration Paths
The vast majority of Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico with three main paths that Monarch butterflies follow. Researchers have been studying how Monarch Butterflies find the same location.
One hypothesis is that the butterflies use a combination of directional aids like the Earth’s magnetic pull and the position of the sun.
Rocky Mountain Range to California
If a Monarch begins its journey west of the Rocky Mountain range in North America, they overwinter in California near Santa Cruz and San Diego. They are often found in eucalyptus, Monterey pines, and Monterey cypress trees in California.
Eastern North America to Yucatan Peninsula
Monarchs that live between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, fly through the Carolinas and Florida to their second home as far as the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
Great Lakes to Sierra Madre Mountains
Monarch butterflies who begin their migration in Eastern North America between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes find a second home in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico where the butterflies shelter in the Oyamel Forests.
This is the most important route because it is followed by the largest number of butterflies between 100-150 million every year!
You can even track Monarch butterflies as they make their way back this Spring and Summer! We live in Wisconsin, so they start appearing here as early as May!
Where do Monarch butterflies look for shelter?
Monarch butterflies can travel anywhere between 50 and 100 miles a day, which means it takes them approximately two months to complete their migration.
In order to stay warm, Monarchs cluster together. You’ll find many images around the internet with tens of thousands of monarchs clustered on a single tree.
Plastic Water Bottle Butterflies Recycled Art
We had some plastic water bottles left over from an activity and decided to reuse them instead of sending them to the recycling bin.
We have been working on our recycling skills and are habitual hoarders of all things plastic because we try to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible especially when it comes to making recycled art!
You might also enjoy: Earth Day Coding Recycling Sorting Activity
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Plastic Bottle Butterfly Supplies
- Empty plastic bottle
- Oil-based Sharpie markers (Black)
- Paint pens (White)
- Brush Tip Sharpies (Orange)
- Butterfly Template (click to download for free)
How to Make a Plastic Bottle Butterfly
We started by removing the top and bottom of our empty water bottle. We saved these for another fun activity!
Next, we cut our plastic water bottle in half in order to make two butterflies from the water bottle.
The plastic might be sharp in places, so be careful handling and use a nail file if needed to soften the edges.
Attach the butterfly template to the underside of the plastic.
Use a black oil-based paint Sharpie to trace the outline of the butterfly from the template.
Remove the butterfly template. You’ll need this to make the second plastic bottle butterfly, so be careful when peeling it off.
Trace the second plastic water bottle butterfly.
Cut the butterflies out. Be careful with the plastic since it could be sharp. You can use a nail file to soften the edges a bit.
We recommend that an adult does this step.
Use your plastic bottle butterflies to decorate! These are very pretty as a simple Spring recycled art decoration.
We have them on display with an amber colored vase right in our living room!
We love our new recycled art!
- Cut top and bottom off of plastic bottle.
- Cut remaining plastic piece in half.
- Attach butterfly template to underside of plastic.
- Trace butterfly onto plastic using oil-based black marker.
- Repeat steps 3 & 4 for second butterfly.
- Use white and orange paint markers to color in Monarch butterflies.
- Cut out butterflies and soften plastic edges with a nail file.
- Decorate with your recycled art plastic water bottle butterflies!
For safety reasons, we recommend that an adult cuts out the plastic butterfly. We also recommend using a nail file to soften the edges of the plastic.
Meet Toni, the Maker Mom behind Our Family Code
Hey there, I’m Toni! I’m a software engineer and Maker Mom that finds my joy in unleashing my children’s curiosity by exploring STEAM concepts with my fantastic five!
When I’m not chasing toddlers or raising tweens, you can find me tearing things up and putting them back together over here at Our Family Code.
I am the owner and content creator of multiple educational websites designed to increase access to STEAM & STEM education with a focus on teaching computer science and coding to kids of all ages!
You can also find out more about me by visiting ToniGardner.com!