Monarch Butterfly  Migration

Migration News: September 1, 2006

Welcome to the fall monarch migration season! Here is the news from the migration trail:

Monarchs resting in Thornton, Ontario. How many more miles must they travel?

Latest Migration Maps

About these maps >>
All Migration Sightings
Sightings of Overnight ROOSTS PEAK
Migration Sightings
  • Click for live maps and read the observer's comments.
  • Make Your Own Map in the classroom! >>
  • Also See: Week-by-week Migration Animation >>
Please Report Your Sightings! >>
The Migration to Mexico is Underway!

Highlights from the Migration Trail
The word came first from Ontario this year, and the date was only August 3rd. Mr. David Brown of Kingston wrote:

"Although monarchs have been fluttering by for many days without much hint of directional flight, I saw about 50 monarchs this morning flying in a south to southwest direction, indicating that migration seems to have begun in this part of the world."

Do monarchs migrate earlier than the science books say? Before the Internet, collecting such an observation would have been hard. Now, "citizen scientists" are contributing to the understanding of monarch migration. We hope you're ready to help!

As the migration begins across eastern Canada and the United States people are thrilled by high monarch numbers:

  • "We have noticed a drastic increase in Monarchs this year. In years past we were fortunate to see a few. They are in the air wherever we go. It is great to see!"
  • "I was sitting on the shore of Lake Ontario and watched hundreds of monarchs appear from the lake, land on the flowers, and then continue south," wrote Elaine Williams of Finger Lakes Secondary School in New York.
  • On Monday, Mr. David Burnet and his wife were driving down the Genesee Valley Greenway and were suddenly surrounded by thousands of Monarchs!
  • Also on Monday, Fay Matthews-Garcia spotted monarchs in her backyard in St. Catharines, Ontario. She hoped they’d arrive by the hundreds as once before. “Well, this time they picked the neighbour’s yard and are there now by the hundreds. Why here? We assume because it is the first land after flying across Lake Ontario," she noted.

Reports from the Midwest have been unusually scarce:

  • "What happened?" asked Tom Murphy of Cannon Falls, MN. "In May and June it looked like it was going to be a great year for monarchs." But very few monarchs are visiting his flower farm this year. "I just walked out to my flower patch and there were only 15 or so. Most years I would have hundreds or thousands...We did have quite a drought in this area, virtually no rain for over 4 weeks and many days in the 90's."

Typically, over half of the monarchs that migrate to Mexico come from the Midwest's Corn Belt. Did the drought affect the population? Let's see what people report in the next few weeks.

What does monarch migration look like?

Mrs. Hewson of Thornton, Ontario, has been sending these pictures from her backyard. How does she know the monarchs were migrating?

Here's how you can watch monarch migration:

Click images above to see full-sized.
Let's Compare: The Life Cycle and Annual Cycle

Life is short for most monarchs. They are born, reproduce, and die within a few weeks. The life cycle is repeated over and over during the breeding season. Many generations live their brief lives. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren and sometimes more generations live and die in a single breeding season.

But the life cycle comes to a pause when winter is approaching. Monarchs become adults but they do not reproduce. These are the monarchs that migrate to Mexico. They may live for up to 8 months--almost an entire school year. We’re about to follow the lives and travels of these monarchs. The monarchs migrating today are probably the great-great-granchildren of those that traveled to Mexico last year. The two slideshows below provide an overview of the overlapping life cycle and annual cycle of the monarch butterflies of eastern North America.

Life Cycle Annual Cycle
Teachers' Guide

The suggestions in this guide are provided to help teachers integrate Journey North's real-time program in the classroom.

The Next Monarch Butterfly Migration Update will be posted on September 8, 2006

Copyright 2006 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.
Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to
our feedback form