This time of year, Oklahomans start to see Monarch butterflies a little more frequently visiting flowers our gardens, flitting across fields, and riding the wind overhead. The Monarch showing up in mid-August are a bit early for the fall migration. Many of them are still looking for milkweed plants on which to lay their eggs. According to Chip Taylor, founder of Monarch Watch, these butterflies may be part of a 5th generation in the annual butterfly life cycle.
Many people have heard that Monarchs overwinter in mountains in Mexico, then in spring migrate north to lay eggs on milkweed, and then Monarchs migrate back to Mexico in the fall. What most people don’t realize is that it takes at least four generations to make this annual cycle. The butterflies that migrate north in the spring are the great-great-grandparents of the butterflies that migrate south in the fall. The majority of the breeding grounds is in the upper midwest, but you can find a few Monarchs in Oklahoma throughout the summer. Mid-August we begin to observe Monarchs trickling in from the north. Instead of making their way quickly across the state, only stopping to fuel up on nectar, we find these butterflies laying eggs on our local milkweed to produce another generation of butterflies – a 5th generation.
Josh D. Kouri, 2019
Want to learn more?
Monarch and Non-native Milkweed Use – research conducted by undergraduate Kayleigh Clement at the Oklahoma Biological Survey
Okies for Monarchs – Oklahoma specific resources for Monarch conservation
Monarch Watch – citizen science program keeping track of Monarchs during their fall migration
Monarch Joint Venture – a partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses and academic programs working together to protect the monarch migration across the United States.