As Long Island exterminators, much of our time is devoted to protecting, eliminating, and preventing pests from entering homes. At Suburban Exterminating, we have multiple entomologists (aka insect scientists) on staff, as well as a team of highly knowledgeable technicians. Sometimes we just like to nerd out over the beauty and behavior of insects, as is the case with the monarch butterfly!
The Curious Journey of the Monarch Butterfly
In a manner similar to birds, millions of North American monarch butterflies make an astonishingly long distance migration two times each year, traveling thousands of miles across the continent, not once…but twice!
Why Do Monarch Butterflies Migrate?
Unlike other butterfly species who can “overwinter,” or essentially wait out the cold northern winter season, monarch butterflies are unable to survive the cold. Because of this, monarch butterflies use environmental cues to know when it’s time for them to travel toward warmer places for the winter! As the days shorten, temperatures drop, and milkweed and nectar sources age, monarchs are triggered to head south.
When Do Monarch Butterflies Migrate?
Monarch butterflies make their way south for fall migration from August to November. Monarch butterflies actually travel as far as 3,000 miles to reach their warm winter home, using a combination of air currents and thermals to lead their way!
Then, their spring migration back to point A takes place from March to June. Again, the monarchs are cued to migrate, this time back north using environmental indicators like lengthening days.
The fall 2020 monarch butterfly migration is already underway! As we head into fall next week, monarchs have been sighted flying, nectaring, roostering, and breeding. You can even track the migrating monarchs with real-time migration maps!
Where Do Monarch Butterflies Migrate To?
Monarchs in North America are separated into two primary groups—the western monarchs, which breed west of the Rocky Mountains, and the eastern monarchs, which breed in the Great Plains and Canada. When it’s time to migrate south, western monarchs head toward southern California, and eastern monarchs make their way to Central Mexico.
How Can You Help Monarch Butterflies?
Since the 1980s, the western monarch population has declined by more than 99 percent. Likewise, the eastern monarch population has decreased by an estimated 80%.
If you find yourself on the monarch butterfly’s migration route this fall, you can help scientists by reporting your sightings. The more reports scientists get, the better they can understand monarchs’ conservation needs. You can even plant milkweed for monarchs to feed on!
What Does a Monarch Butterfly Look Like?
The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable butterflies on the planet—you’ve most likely encountered it already!
The monarch butterfly is orange with black, vein-like markings and a black border around its wings that have white spots on them. While males and females look similar, the black veins are thicker on female monarch butterflies’ wings, and the male has small pouches on their back wings where they store pheromones. The bright orange shade associated with monarch butterflies helps warn predators like birds that they are foul-tasting and poisonous because of the milkweed they consume.