At the beginning of the dry season, the food plants shrivel and the butterflies leave to find a moister climate. When the rains arrive, the food plants grow back and the butterflies return. The Fall Migration September - November.
The Monarch butterfly makes the longest known insect migration on Earth (2:55)
This figure is an interpretation of the routes taken by Monarchs during the Fall migration. The pathways are based on tag recoveries and observations of Migrating Monarchs. When the late summer and early fall Monarchs emerge from their pupae, or chrysalides, they are biologically and behaviorally different from those emerging in the summer. The shorter days and cooler air of late summer trigger changes.
In Minnesota this occurs around the end of August. Even though these butterflies look like summer adults, they won't mate or lay eggs until the following spring. Instead, their small bodies prepare for a strenuous flight. Otherwise solitary animals, they often cluster at night while moving ever southward.
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If they linger too long, they won't be able to make the journey; because they are cold-blooded, they are unable to fly in cold weather. Fat, stored in the abdomen, is a critical element of their survival for the winter. This fat not only fuels their flight of one to three thousand miles, but must last until the next spring when they begin the flight back north. As they migrate southwards, Monarchs stop to nectar, and they actually gain weight during the trip!
Some researchers think that Monarchs conserve their "fuel" in flight by gliding on air currents as they travel south. This is an area of great interest for researchers; there are many unanswered questions about how these small organisms are able to travel so far. Another unsolved mystery is how Monarchs find the overwintering sites each year.
Somehow they know their way, even though the butterflies returning to Mexico or California each fall are the great-great-grandchildren of the butterflies that left the previous spring. No one knows exactly how their homing system works; it is another of the many unanswered questions in the butterfly world. We have created a comprehensive map representing both the fall and spring migrations both east and west of the Rocky Mountains. To the extent possible, the map is based on data. Their job is to lay eggs as they travel, and remember, only Milkweed will do. The larvae hatch in 4 days, and feed ONLY on milkweed for about 3 weeks before continuing with the migration in search of mates and nectar.
So, we are offering free milkweed on our site, and encourage you to keep researching! Thanks so much for this post! We built a home 5 years ago on what was part of family-owned land and I have marveled at the number of Milkweed plants that have continue to come-back over the years. Our Town sends out mowers to keep the road sides cleaned up … and the milkweed is just beyond their reach!
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I hope, in my own little corner, that these will remain untouched. Did a little research and one of the easiest recommendations was to take the nests down, at night. Or, cover the plants to protect them from wasps.
Not sure if this helps, but thanks for that new twist. I bought several milkweed plants. It is hard to find and the grower I buy from has had a hard time keeping it in stock. I have not seen any butterflys so far but it is not time for the migration.
Butterflies in Flight
Last year butterflys of all kinds were numerous. I am concerned that the mosquito sprayers are causing some problems. Anyway, we did not spray last year and decided that we would dose ourselves to keep the mosquitoes away. We also plant a vine specific for the gulf fritilary sp. Anything is better that what they used when we were kids — anyone remember those trucks on a summer evening?! Your email address will not be published.
Consider a few more amazing monarch facts : They can fly between 50 and miles per day and the farthest range recorded was miles in one day. How Does the Monarch Migrate? JoAnn Locy on April 1, at pm.
Briscoe White on April 11, at pm. Diana MacDougall on April 2, at am. How do I keep the wasps away from the caterpillars? They are killing them in droves. Vertical garden planters on October 27, at am. Kenan White on August 1, at pm.