Sep 25 2011
Every year at this time I blog about monarch butterfly migration. I hope you don’t tire of it. It’s just so amazing to me that this butterfly migrates as much as 2,500 miles to spend the winter in Mexico — and we can see it happening.
Years ago people suspected the butterflies were migrating but didn’t know where they went. After 40 years of tagging and tracking monarchs, Dr. Fred Urquhart found their wintering site in 1976 in the mountains of Mexico. At first the locations were kept secret because there are so few of them, but nowadays they are eco-tourist destinations where visitors can observe millions of monarchs in the Oyamel fir trees.
Right now the butterflies are on their way. Yesterday afternoon at the Waterfront Shopping Center I was loading my car when I saw a monarch fly by. I paused and looked up and counted 10 monarch butterflies flying southwest over the parking lot. The wind was calm, the air was warm and all of them were fluttering in the exact same direction, each bug on its own long journey. Wow!
Monarchs are on the move across the country. You can watch their progress on the Journey North website or in your own neighborhood. In southwestern Pennsylvania you can know a monarch butterfly is migrating by these three things:
- It’s the right time of year — September is prime time.
- The butterfly is fluttering or gliding in one direction without pausing to eat.
- It’s flying southwest.
It’s easy to see them. Keep looking up.
(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)
p.s. This monarch is male. You can tell because he has dots on his hind wings. The females don’t have them.