September 6 - September 12
Discover nature this week as you witness the graceful flight of a monarch butterfly. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, these butterflies pass through our state in September after spending the summer in Canada and the northern U.S. When the days start getting shorter, millions of monarchs migrate through Missouri as they travel to the mountains of Mexico for the winter.
A monarch butterfly is easy to spot by its black and orange coloring. This natural beauty can also provide a geography lesson. If you have the chance to observe one in your yard, take a picture and then do a little research on the monarch.
You may learn, like I did from Jeffrey Glassberg’s guide on Butterflies of North America, that the monarchs are headed to the Transvolcanic Range of central Mexico. According to Glassberg, groups of perhaps 100 million monarchs blanket the trees of the rugged mountains at altitudes of more than 10,000 feet. To think we can catch a portion of that spectacular sight in our own Missouri yards is pretty incredible.
Since Monarchs only eat plants of the milkweed family, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation, you may want to keep a healthy patch of butterfly milkweed plants in your flower garden to make sure you attract some of these fascinating migrants. Also, since butterflies love to sunbathe, you may want to provide some flat, light-colored rocks in a sunny spot for them. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, a butterfly flies best when its body temperature is between 85 and 100 degrees.
By providing milkweed and resting spots in your yard you can help monarchs have a safe journey back to Mexico so we can see them again in the Spring. Though only a few individuals will make it back into the United States for their Spring northern migration, their offspring will complete the migration for them.
To keep track of current natural events like when to watch for Monarch butterflies to migrate through Missouri, you can get your own Natural Events Calendar from the Missouri Department of Conservation.