The Migrating Monarch Butterflies

Oregon Ridge Nature Center will host a program on monarch butterflies on Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23; 2:00-4:00pm both dates.

Monarch butterfly seen on September 15, 2012

Monarchs are the celebrities of the butterfly species. There are about 150 species of butterflies in Maryland. But monarchs seem to get the most publicity. Especially this time of year, when we are fascinated with their 3,000 mile migratory journey to Mexico and California for the winter.

Monarchs are the only butterfly to make such a long, two-way migration every year. They can travel between 25 and 50 miles a day. They are passing through Maryland now (mid- to late September).

Several generations of monarchs are born each year, but only the ones born in late summer and early fall make the migration. After hibernating in the warm sunny climes of the south, they make a return trip in the spring – because the food necessary to develop their larvae does not grow in their overwintering sites. So they travel back, northward, in the spring to lay their eggs.

Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed. The egg hatches into a larvae (a caterpillar) which eat only milkweed. But milkweed is diminishing, as natural land is taken over to build roads and houses. With the loss of milkweed, the monarch population is also diminishing. There are many conservation efforts to encourage people to plant milkweed in their gardens to restore monarch butterfly habitat. You can see a butterfly garden at Oregon Ridge and learn how to plant one.

Another fascinating aspect of the monarch migration is that the monarchs fly to the same location every year – hibernating in the very same trees year after year though they have never been there before. We wonder how do they know to do this?

Have you seen any monarch butterflies this fall?

Have you planted a butterfly garden? Please tell us about it!

This entry was posted in butterfly, migration, monarch butterfly, September. Bookmark the permalink.

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