The Butterfly Express
The migration of the monarch butterfly is one of the miracles of nature. Each fall, hundreds of millions of monarchs migrate from the United States and Canada to spend the winter in Central Mexico. In March, they begin their return journey north.
Over the last decade, the Monarch population has declined as a result of urban sprawl and herbicide-resistant crops, which have caused habitat loss. To help the monarchs on their journey, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center has established a Monarch Waystation.
Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants. The larvae only eat from the milkweed plant on which they were born. At the end of the larval stage the caterpillar will leave the milkweed plant and search out a good location to spin a pad of silk from the specialized spinneret. The caterpillar will hang like a J shape getting ready for the final molt. Slowly the outer cuticle hardens to form a pupa inside the chrysalis (cocoon) for 8-15 days where the body is transformed into the butterfly. Monarchs typically emerge from the chrysalis in the early morning and dry their wings for several hours before they are ready to fly. The adult butterflies sip on nectar from a variety of flowers.
Summer butterflies live up to 2 months but the last generation, instead of breeding, migrate to the high mountains west of Mexico City where they cluster together on the branches of the oyamel fir tree for the winter. The migrating generation may live up to 9 months, until Spring, when the migration starts again.
Monarch populations are currently in deep decline due to a number of factors, including poor weather conditions like cold and drought, loss of habitat, climate change, and pesticide poisoning.
If you would like to help the Monarchs, start by planting milkweed, providing native plants for foraging and shelter, removing invasive species and replacing them with native plants, and avoid use of pesticides. Our Monarch habitat plants include:
- Swamp Milkweed, Common Milkweed & Asclepias Syriaca (Asclepias Incarnata)
- Greenheaded Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)
- Goldenrod (Solidago Flexicaulis)
- Bonset (Eupatorium Perfoliatum)
- Ninebark (Physocarpus Opulifolius)
- Blazing Star (Liatris Spicata)
- Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis Tripteris)
- Wild Onion (Allium Cernuum)
- New England Aster (Symphyotrichum Novae-angliae)
- Ironweed (Vernonia Noveboracensis)
- Helen’s Flower (Helenium Autumnale)