Early Monarch in Massachusetts: April, 1997

Thanks to Katie Gengarelly for the careful observations she made before reporting monarchs in her region. Katie will send the wings of the monarch she discovered so we can post them here.

Dates of First Monarchs Reported in Massachusetts
Year Date
1994 5/17/94
1995 5/24/95
1996 6/06/97
1997 4/07/97

This sighting is noteworthy because it is so much earlier than those Journey North has collected from Massachusetts in past years::

Here is Katie's letter:


April 22, 1997

Dear Journey North,
"I live in Orleans, MA. On April seventh, I stayed home sick from school and I saw a monarch on a rhododendron in my front yard. It stayed still long enough for me to get the encyclopedia out and I got a picture of it and the pattern on the wings of the real butterfly matched up with the ones shown in the book.

"On the tenth of April, my mom was outside walking and she saw a dead monarch on the road. She picked up the wings and we looked in a book and sure enough they matched up to the ones there.

"YES I STILL HAVE THE DEAD MONARCH WINGS. I WILL SEND THEM TO YOU AS SOON AS I CAN BUT THEY ARE CURRENTLY AT SCHOOL ON A BULLETIN BOARD AND IT IS APRIL VACATION.

"Today, April 22, I was at the Orleans Elementary school playground and my mom called to me, 'Look up!!!" I did and I saw a beautiful monarch. I couldn't watch it for long because I was watching a one and a half year old, I didn't want her to run in front of the swing set there. However, I did see it long enough to recognize it as a monarch. It had white dots on the ends of each wing."


Katie Gengarelly

As promised, Katie sent these wings from one of the two monarchs she sighted on Cape Cod, Massachusetts in early April.

Her sightings raises some fascinating questions:

  • Did this monarch fly all the way from Mexico to Cape Cod?
  • What were the wind & weather conditions in the Northeast in early April that might have carried this butterfly to Cape Cod?
  • Could the butterfly wings have been on Cape Cod all winter?
  • What other explanations can you imagine?