Monarchs: A Majestic Migration!

May 5, 2020

by Aaron Pflug • Kidzeum Staff

There is just something awe-inspiring about the thought of a Monarch butterfly fluttering its way along a 3,000-mile trek south to the mountain forests of Mexico; thinking about the millions of Monarch butterflies making the same journey at the same time is truly mind-blowing!

But that is exactly what happens every year, at least for the Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains. Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains will make a shorter, but no less perilous, migration to the Pacific coast.

Regardless of the general direction, Monarchs will make use of air currents to help push them along. Monarchs essentially funnel down through various corridors, joining to create bigger and bigger swarms! They will take advantage of roosting locations and food sources long frequented by Monarchs on this annual flight. And they’ll end up in the same locations when they finally arrive at their winter homes. In fact, they really seem to have it figured out!

Except, the Monarchs making that journey have never made that journey before! Every year, the fourth generation of Monarchs – born in early fall – stop their development before reaching full maturity and take off for the overwintering sites. Exactly how Monarchs know all the “wheres” and “hows” necessary to make the journey is unclear, but the process is stunning in its consistency. The paths Monarchs take are so well established, some states have worked together to officially recognize and cultivate a “Monarch Highway!”

Eventually, the Monarchs arrive, finish maturing in the warmer climate, and continue doing Monarch butterfly things throughout the winter months. When the springtime comes, the cycle will begin anew as early generation Monarchs begin a more leisurely migration north in search of the coveted milkweed.

But they’ll be back! They always are.

And, of course, you can help them out along the way! Planting milkweed (check with someone if you’re unsure about the best varieties!) and pollinator gardens are easy ways to assist those most regal of butterflies: Monarchs! You can also make your own crafty Monarch butterfly (or any other kind of butterfly) at home!

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