Monarch Migration Has Started

Legions of beautiful Monarch butterflies have started their long journey to the mountains of southern Mexico. If you have fall flowers in bloom in your garden or blooming plants anywhere near where you live, you're quite likely to see these beautiful orange and black butterflies gliding southward for the next two or thee weeks.
 Monarch migration in New England usually starts aound the second week of September and continues up to about the second week of October. Notice what diection these gliders are heading. It's fascinating when you realize that all of these beatiful butterflies are no longer gliding in random directions in search of nectar, but rather gliding slowly but determinedly toward the south. If you don't know where south is, pull out a compass or locate the general direction of the sun in the sky toward the mid day hours. All the monarchs are heading in that direction. This past Thursday we had dozens of Monarchs feeding on nectar from our wildflower garden in front of the visitor center at Pinkham Notch, and more Monarchs can be seen passing through every day.
Photo: Monarchs feeding on Aster at Pinkham Notch

Monarchs make regular stop overs at late summer and fall blooming flowers for nectar in order to fuel their long distance to Mexico. So if you want to attract legions of black and orange migrants to your yard, make sure to include late bloomers in your garden! Eventually the nectar from our late blooming wildflowers will help many Monarchs succesfully arrive at their overwintering roosts in the Oyamel Fir Trees of the Sierra Madres in southern Mexico.
Their overwintering sites in the Sierra Madre are at close to 10,000 feet in elevation. Cool enough to keep their metabolism slow in order to preserve precious fat reserves, but usually warm enough to prevent deadly hard frosts due to the southerly location. The Sierra Madres are "just right" for an overwintering monarch, the only long distance migrant among the worlds butterflies.

Matt Maloney
AMC Natuarlist Guide