Monarchs on the move

foggy monarch The monarch butterfly migration is well underway, with higher numbers than we’ve seen in many, many years. With close to fifty acres of goldenrod and asters in our First and Far Fields, we get a lot of monarchs coming in to nectar and spend the night. And with nighttime temperatures falling into the 40s and 50s (5-15 C), the monarchs tend to seek each other out in late afternoon so they can spend the night in small clumps in the trees. The next morning, the fields are aflutter with hundreds of monarchs, especially bordering Sapsucker Ridge where the sun strikes first.

Anecdotal evidence suggests a robust monarch migration throughout the east. My Uncle Hal drove up from Beckley, West Virginia the other day, and said he was dodging monarchs all the way. And a post to the Pennsylvania Birding listserve on Thursday reported a staggering 7,000 monarchs in one morning at a hawk watch in Northampton County. The poster, Michael Schall, says, “It was non-stop on the clicker trying to get a decent count with my total of nearly 7000 by the time I had to leave at 1300pm conservative at best. Most were counted between 0900 and 1030 as numbers were light when I left for work.” This jibes with our impression of the greatest movement occuring in the morning.

To see what our main field looks like when the goldenrod is in bloom, click on the newly illustrated “Where and What is Plummer’s Hollow?” page and scroll down to the bottom.



About Dave Bonta

I'm the author of several books of poetry, including Ice Mountain: An Elegy, Breakdown: Banjo Poems, and Odes to Tools, but my real work is at my long-running literary blog Via Negativa, where I'm currently creating erasure poems from every entry of the Diary of Samuel Pepys. I'm also the editor and publisher of Moving Poems, a blog showcasing the best poetry videos on the web.

Posted on September 15, 2007, in butterflies, insects, migration, monarchs. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. It’s great to hear that there are so many Monarchs passing through. This is just musing out loud, but something that I’m beginning to wonder about is how many Monarchs are being reared by people who become interested in doing so. As you probably remember, I raised and released over 50 last year. This year, I raised a couple of dozen. However, a woman that I happened to hear of in my own area raised and released at least 200 — I think perhaps it was quite a few more than that. Judging by the interest level of a gang of people who have been posting about raising Black Swallowtails on a comment thread to one of my old posts about butterfly rearing from last year (I think there are something like 280 comments posted to it now), there seem to be a lot of people who are raising caterpillars in order to watch them develop. If enough people are doing so (and I’m guessing there are quite a few), I suspect that would probably begin to have an impact on overall numbers of butterflies (albeit rather small), but particularly in the case of species which have a couple of generations over a season. If the first generation got a reasonable helping hand, I would think that second generation might get quite a boost.

  2. Hmm, maybe so. I was assuming the increase was simply part of the normal fluctuation in the eastern monarch’s population, attributable mostly to favorable weather in the north and/or Mexico. But given the reported scarcity of old field and other brushy habitat with abundant milkweed, one does have to wonder where all these butterflies were raised.

  1. Pingback: September wrap-up | Via Negativa

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