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Monarch Butterfly Migration

Updated on August 28, 2012

Millions of Monarch Butterflies migrate from Mexico to North America every spring. The journey begins in Mid March and ends in June. The Monarchs spend the winter months feeding in Mexico before taking off on there journey. Then in the fall they return to Mexico. How do these butterflies know when to travel and where to travel? How do they know where to fly and how high to fly? We will explore monarch Butterfly migration in this hub.

Monarch Butterflies spend their winter months in Mexico and southern California where it is warm all year long. Monarch butterflies hibernate in Eucalyptus and Olyamel fir trees, depending on there location in the US. It is noted that the Monarchs will use the same trees again and again to use for hibernation.

Why do they migrate? Two reasons: They can not withstand freezing weather in the northern and central continental climates in the winter. Also, the larval food plants do not grow in their winter overwintering sites, so the spring generation must fly back north to places where the plants are plentiful.

Migration to North America begins in March and then back again to Mexico in the fall. Butterflies cannot stand the cold temperatures. These butterflies have been known to travel at least 200 miles at a couple hundred miles a day.

It is amazing that these creatures can fly this long! They only can fly when conditions are right. If it is too cold they will freeze, if it is too hot they will be sluggish.

How do they do it!

Many have wondered how the Monarch knows where to go! Many entomologists hypothesize that the butterflies receive signals from magnetic waves or signals from the sun. One study was done to test the navigation system of the monarch. Many tagged butterflies were taken from the central states and placed in Washington DC. At first the Monarchs went south towards Florida. Then somehow the Monarch started heading towards Mexico, their original destination. It is like the butterfiles have their own GPS!

Watch the life cycle of a butterfly at home!

The Life Cycle of a Monarch

If you are not familiar with the life cycle of a butterfly here is your chance. To become a butterfly you have to go through four stages...Butterflies start out as Eggs, become caterpillars and pupae. It then through Metamorphosis in the crystalis and becomes the magnificent butterfly. Hey it takes a lot of work to t there but it is worth it. Monarch butterflies eat form the Milkweed. A butterfly's lifespan is anywhere from seven to fourteen days.

Butterflies lay 200 to 300 eggs. Once the eggs are laid the Monarch dies. It takes about three or four generations of butterflies to make it to the United States and three or four generations to make it back!

Information about tagging programs

Monarch Butterfly attractions

Pacific Grove, CA is known as Butterfly town USA. It is one of the wintering sites for the Monarch Butterfly. Clustering of the butterfly can be seen al over the town in Mid October as the butterfly comes back for the Winter. The town even hosts a butterfly parade it their honor.

I have found several travel packages on the Internet that promise to take you to Mexico to see the millions oaf butterflies.

Monarch Butterflies in Pacific Grove California

Monarch Butterflies are fun to track. There are several websites (a few are listed below) that you can become a member and track the Migration of the Monarch. See the map below for a current tracking of these spectacular butterflies. Get in the action yourself and track and report them. It makes a fun family activity.


Some nice video of Monarchs

Monarchs are becoming an endangered species

Monarchs are becoming endangered despite there presence in the millions. The particular trees that Monarchs fly to are being cut down. More and more parking lots are replacing the Milkweed patches that are need to feed these creatures. The link adjacent to this text will take you to a site trying to save the Monarch Butterfly! The instructions state to send a self addressed stamped envelope and they will send it back with free milkweed seed! This is one of the plants that Monarchs love!

Adopt a Butterfly

Yes you can adopt a butterfly! Go to the site below and "raise" your own butterfly. This site will send you pictures of your adopted butterfly every few days. It is great education for your son or daughter and just lots of fun.


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      Brecke 8 years ago

      when are the monarchs expected to pass thru denver, CO this year?