Monarchs Are On Their Way
The monarch migration to the Northeast last year was very disappointing and modest in the Upper Midwest, the major flyway. In the fall, monarchs from east of the Rockies migrate to Mexico where they will overwinter in a small area in the mountains. For many years the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has conducted population surveys based upon the area covered by the monarch (see graph).
This winter the area covered measured only a little over five acres, a 26% decline from the prior year. Not good! This year’s migration has started with butterflies moving north with some already arriving in Texas and a few Gulf states (late March). Both sexes need nectar from flowers to fuel flight and milkweed plants to lay eggs for the next generation to continue the migration north. This process will happen 3-4 times before reaching their final destination in Northern U.S. & Southern Canada. Of considerable concern is the deep-freeze in Texas in mid-February that did extraordinary damage to flora that may affect March blooming plants that the first group of butterflies needs for nectar.
It is quite uncertain how many monarchs will migrate to the Northeast this year. But it is important to be ready for them with plantings of marsh milkweed and butterfly weed, as well as other native flowering plants for the nectar and reproduction.