Carol Hough saw three monarchs while aboard a research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, about 200 miles offshore.
"I work on a vessel doing marine mammal and bird counts in the Gulf of Mexico. I saw three monarch butterflies, one yesterday (3/24/14) around 15:43 and two last week. Both sightings were in the general vicinity of the ship's stern. All three were pumpkin orange and flitted about for only a few seconds before leaving the ship.
"The ship was traveling 2.6-4.4 knots. The winds had been from the north all day. I don't know which direction the monarchs were headed because the vessel was moving and the butterflies were zigzagging everywhere around the vessel before going off stern. Our ship was facing SE so NW direction is a good bet. I was sure they were monarchs but I feel as though I've learned so much about them in the last week I can't be 100% certain. I spoke with my biologist workmate and he agreed with me it definitely wasn't a painted lady!"
Texas entomologist, Mike Quinn, shared his thoughts about this remarkable sighting:
"Given Carol's background as a field biologist, the number seen, the timing (coinciding with spring monarch migration) and her initial confidence, I strongly suspect these were monarchs. Apparently, the biologist workmate also saw yesterday's butterfly and ruled out it being a painted lady. It's unclear what route their ship has been traveling since last week, but they may have been closer to land last week when two orange butterflies were observed.
"The only other large pumpkin orange butterfly in the southeastern US that a monarch might be confused with is the Gulf fritillary which is migratory, but reviewing Walker's papers on the fritillary's movements in Florida, he found it mostly moving in the fall, not in the spring. Given that Carol observed three, again points to they're having been monarchs. A queen is an outside possibility, but that species is generally non-migratory and is more brown than pumpkin orange."