Monarch Butterflies – Another Long-Distance Migrator!

Each year in the early part of summer, these orange and black beauties begin to arrive in Wisconsin and other areas north of the 40th Parallel in search of milkweed leaves and nectaring plants. 

But did you know they make the trip from central Mexico? 

Wait, let’s back up a bit… 

Each Autumn, when days get shorter and the temperatures begin to cool off, monarch butterflies begin to leave breeding territories in the north, in search of a warm place to spend the winter. For monarchs, that overwintering ground can be found high up on just a few mountains in central Mexico. Once there, the monarchs huddle together by the millions on the branches of oyamel fir trees.

Those that survive the winter, reverse course in the spring and begin heading north. Some will make it to Texas where they find milkweed to deposit eggs on. Those eggs hatch – the caterpillars emerge and eat – a lot – before spending 10-15 days inside a chrysalis – and eventually emerging as a beautiful Monarch butterfly.

The new Monarch flies several hundred miles north, visiting nectaring plants along the way for nourishment. When the times is right, it finds a mate, and deposits fertilized eggs on Milkweed plants, before it eventually dies. The new offspring continue the journey northward. In fact it could take 4 or 5 generations to make the trip. 

Yesterday Colleen sent along the following photo, which shows two adult Monarch butterflies (and a couple other pollinators) nectaring on, and perhaps checking to see if the plant was suitable for ovipositing eggs. 

A. tuberosa (Butterfly weed) is the host plant for Monarch butterflies. Photo: C. Chase

This lovely orange-flowering plant is the lesser-known milkweed here in the north. It’s proper name is Asclepias tuberosa. Every garden needs this spectacular orange beauty. You never know – if you plant some, you may end up with some flying orange beauties during the too-brief time they spend here in the north.

READ more about efforts in Wisconsin to help the Monarch

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4 Comments

  1. Mollie Cook July 17, 2018 12:41 pm

    I also have milkweed for the Monarchs. I’m in southwest Missouri & have seen only 1 Monarch so far but have had several Monarch caterpillars. You are so right Grandma. Pollinators need all the help we can give them.

  2. Catherine Wohlfeil July 16, 2018 10:00 pm

    The monarch – living beauty on the wing…

  3. Grandma July 16, 2018 11:53 am

    I have Butterfly Weed in my perennial garden and was fortunate enough to see Monarchs in it again this year.
    Bees also like it as well as the Bee Balm I have planted. We need to do all we can to protect our pollinators!

  4. Maggie Turk July 16, 2018 9:00 am

    The Monarch Butterfly is such an interesting part of nature. I had several larvae on the two milkweed plants that volunteered to grow in my flower bed. Hopefully by now they are beautiful butterflies. So interesting even to this elderly person.