Nature Notes – Monarch Migration

The Great Monarch Migration is Underway!

by Jill K. McDonald
Monarch Butterfly Beauty, Photo by Jill K. McDonald

As we move into late summer, seasonal changes in nature are underway. As I sit upon my porch typing this article, mornings are definitely becoming cooler more often. The crickets’ peaceful chirping still graces me and birds sing in the trees nearby, as the sun slowly climbs in the sky. There is dew on the grass which dampens my feet when I walk through it. And my hibiscus are still in bloom, though seed pods are beginning to form. 

There are many seasonal changes that bring me joy. Some are simple joys nearby and other changes are on a grander scale. One such amazing feat is that of the migration of monarch butterflies!

Monarchs are instinctively driven to migrate south by the seasonal changes of shorter day length and cooler temperatures, beginning in late August. Although mostly solitary, monarchs fly in masses to southern roost sites where they overwinter. 

If you are lucky, you may witness an amazing Midwest spectacle in autumn. Along Lake Michigan, monarchs concentrate as they follow the shoreline while making their way south. On days with north or northeast winds, the butterflies can conserve their energy by gliding on the air currents. 

West of the Rocky Mountains, monarchs will gather along coastal California in wooded areas. East of the Rockies, monarchs will migrate to central Mexico and overwinter in forests until early spring.

The arrival of monarchs in Mexico coincides near El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, on November 1, honoring deceased loved ones. 

When spring arrives in Mexico, the monarchs begin to mate and lay eggs. These winter monarchs will have lived eight or nine months, whereas a summer monarch lives only three to five weeks. As they migrate north in spring, it will take three generations before they arrive again in southwest Michigan.

As stated on Monarch Watch, “To assure a future for monarchs, conservation and restoration of milkweeds needs to become a national priority.” 

Every person can make positive choices that benefit monarchs. Provide nectar-rich flowers and their larval host plant of milkweed, which is often considered a weed. 

For more information, check out and  

If you slow down, even for a few moments, may you soak in and enjoy the simple seasonal changes that surround you. Happy late summer!

Jill K. McDonald is a freelance nature & travel educator, writer, photographer, and speaker. She can be reached by email at or connect with her on Facebook at:

%d bloggers like this: