Monarchs in the Big Country? It’s time for the annual butterfly migration

Weather

A Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is seen Feb. 3, 2020, at the Sanctuary of El Rosario, Ocampo municipality, in the Mexican state of Michoacan, the ancestral homelands where they annually migrate. (Photo by ENRIQUE CASTRO/AFP via Getty Images)

As the seasons begin to shift from summer into fall, we expect a lot of changes. From cooler weather patterns settling in, to festive decorations being set out, it is an exciting time! Another change that is certain is an influx of a certain insect, butterflies – monarch butterflies to be exact.  

Each fall, millions of monarch butterflies leave the northeastern portions of the United States and Canada where they spend their summer and breed. They travel upwards of 3,000 miles to reach their winter home in southwestern Mexico.  

Monarch fall migration pattern from the U.S. Forest Service

As days begin to get shorter and temperatures begin to fall, monarchs start to abandon breeding and feeding territories to find a safe place to spend the winter months. The monarch’s journey south begins in the higher latitudes in late August and into September.  

The monarchs funnel through the Lone Star State along two paths. The first path typically runs the butterflies through Texas the last days of September through about the third week of October. The second path is more focused along the Texas coastline and picks up during the third week of October and runs through about the middle of November.  

Monarchs have already been spotted across the Big Country, including on campus at Abilene Christian University!  

This makes sense, because we are approaching the midpoint of peak monarch migration season. The peak for us runs from September 29 through October 11.  To learn more about monarch migration, you can visit the U.S. Forest Service website at https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/Monarch_Butterfly/migration/.

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