Migrating Monarchs

These monarchs are resting together during their migration.

There is so much to learn about the behaviors of the magical monarch butterfly. These unique insects travel thousands of miles south each year, mostly from Canada and the United States to Mexico. They have one of the most complex migration patterns that scientists have ever studied. Migration is when animals and insects, such as birds and monarch butterflies, travel from one place to another to meet their needs. 

Unlike some butterflies, monarchs cannot survive cold winter weather. They must migrate to warmer climates in the fall and winter months. The migration of monarch butterflies follows a similar pattern each year. Even young butterflies who have never migrated somehow know where to go! 

During their migration, monarch butterflies stop each night. Thousands of monarchs huddle together to rest and stay warm. They also stop for food from plants along the way. It can take a couple of months to reach their destination in mountain-top forests in Mexico, where hibernate until it is time to travel north again. Hibernation is when a living thing rests or goes into a deep sleep through the winter. 

Scientists are still studying how the monarchs know which direction to travel. Each year, scientists encourage people who live in areas near the monarch migration patterns to report where they observe the butterflies. This information helps scientists learn more about monarch butterflies and their behaviors. 

What Can You Do? Research the migration pattern of monarch butterflies. Do you live nearby? How can you help?

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