Each year, millions of Monarch butterflies gather in Point Pelee National Park as they embark on an amazing migration adventure.
Most adult monarchs live for about a month, during which they will mate and lay eggs. However, one special generation lives for more than 6 months. Monarchs that emerge in late August and September don’t have the urge to reproduce – instead, they have the urge to migrate. All energy is put into creating fat stores allowing the butterflies to make the incredible journey over 4000 kilometres to a mountainous forest in central Mexico. From late August to mid- October monarchs migrate south through Ontario. The Great Lakes act as a barrier and the butterflies choose the shortest points to cross the lakes, like Point Pelee. They tend to move on cold fronts and numbers of monarchs will only build when weather conditions (rain, wind or temperature) prevent them from crossing Lake Erie. Resting monarchs are best viewed at the Tip just before sunset or in the early morning – look for sheltered areas near the tops of trees. And remember, monarchs with closed wings look like dead leaves, so a pair of binoculars will come in handy.
Over the last decade, scientists have seen dramatic drops in the eastern Monarch population. Many different factors, including habitat loss and extreme weather have impacted the Monarch population. Currently, Canada, the United States and Mexico are working together to protect this amazing natural phenomena.
What can you do to help?
• Plant a butterfly garden with native plants. Look for species that flower into the fall to
provide nectar for migrating butterflies and milkweed for monarch caterpillars.
• Become a citizen scientist and share your observations with organizations like Monarch Watch and Journey North/South