On a warm sunny day in late September the Monarch butterflies at the Paul Smith’s College Visitors Interpretive Center (VIC) readied for their journey to Mexico. In our butterfly house we tag monarchs so they can be tracked on their journey south. They are tagged with small stickers and given individual numbers. This year one very special Monarch from our butterfly house, number AAMZ679, was found in El Rosario, Mexico! This means this Monarch butterfly traveled 3,000 miles from the Butterfly House to reach El Rosario!
The monarch’s journey south starts from a tiny white egg laid on milkweed. After 4-6 days a yellow and black striped monarch caterpillar emerges. Over the next 10-14 days the caterpillar eats from milkweed leaves until it is fully grown. Next the monarch will shed its skin for the fifth time and form a chrysalis. After 14 more days the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly.
The monarch butterflies born in late August enter a state of diapause. Diapause is suspended reproductive development triggered by changing day length and temperature. Diapause allows the monarchs to live for up to 9 months which is long enough to migrate south and lay eggs. During the migration south the fall blooming wildflower, goldenrod, is an essential food source for the monarchs. Goldenrod is one of the last blooming wildflowers in the year, without it the monarch butterflies would not survive. In the spring the next generation of Monarchs will travel north and repeat the entire migration cycle.
Not all monarch butterflies migrate south. Monarch butterflies born early in the summer will only live a few weeks which is long enough to mate and lay eggs. All the butterflies that live in the Butterfly House at the VIC are caught with nets by the staff. The butterfly house is filled with milkweed which makes it the perfect habitat for monarch Butterflies. Milkweed leaves are the only leaves that a monarch caterpillar will eat. Milkweed also protects Monarchs from predators. Milkweed contains a toxic substance called cardenolide. Monarch caterpillars have a resistance to the substance and can ingest it. This toxic substance makes monarchs taste bad to predators and protects them from being eaten.
Come check out our Butterfly House at the VIC, admission is always free! We have many different species of butterflies, caterpillars, and moths. You also can come to the Butterfly House to learn more about the tagging process to track the monarch’s migration. The Butterfly House just celebrated its 27th anniversary! The Butterfly House managers, Cindy and Stephanie, look forward to meeting you! The Butterfly House is open every day through Labor Day from 11am to 4pm.
The Paul Smith’s College Visitors Interpretive Center Butterfly House and Monarch tagging program is funded by the Adirondack Park Institute and from donations by visitors to the facility.
Thanks for this article. We’re looking forward to visiting the VIC next week.
What a great article. This year I have 6 milkweed plants outside in my yard that the Monarchs loved. They laid their eggs, caterpillars are the leaves and more Monarchs are here. This is my first year doing it. I live in Florida so I anticipate leaving the milkweed out. I have grown some from seed. Everything grows here.
I have so much more to learn.
Where is Paul Smiths located? This article is in the internet and most people , like me, have never heard of Paul Smith. Thanks for the great article and awesome information about Monarchs!
Never heard of Paul Smith’s College? It’s located in Paul Smith’s New York.
I added link to the website in the article as well 🙂
I live in Pennsylvania and I started a butterfly garden this year. The milkweed I planted must have brought monarch butterfly because I could not figure out why my leaves were disappearing! Lol!
I looked closer and I saw several catipilliar running up and down. I called my friend right away she told me to send her a picture. I did. She said I was a lucky dog because I had monarchs. I didn’t know they would be there so fast! I’m so excited! I’m 61 and learned how to do something so wonderful!!
I have been raising Monarchs. My first time. I planted milkweed and keep finding caterpillars. One just turned into a Chrysalis I also have Swallowtails.
Where can I get tags for all the monarchs that are on my property. I released 21 this spring.
Hi, Great story on a tagged Monarch found in El Rosario.
You might want to check your sources … the generation that goes into diapause flies to Mexico, where they overwinter, before flying north again in the spring to lay their eggs in northern Mexico and the southern US. They don’t lay eggs in their wintering grounds.
What a beautiful place to be in college … in the Adirondacks !
How do you get tags for butterfly’s?
Really Amazing. I will have to look up where you are located.c. I am in Overland Park, Kansas
Love this article, I have much respect for Butterflies. My property is a must stop, for them, always planting more Milkweed and share with others.
God Bless You.
Hello! We have our own “Monarch Rescue” program if you will in Churchville, NY. A friend collects as many caterpillars as she can find from her garden and fosters them herself in cages as well as fostering them with anyone else who is interested. They have as many as 400+ a year! How do we tag them? I currently have 21 in my own cage at varying stages of growth. Such a rewarding endeavor. And fun to share with the community!
The Northward trip for the Monarch is also interesting. It takes four stops each time creating a new monarch, which flies on to the next stop, until the final leg brings them to the Adirondacks.
I am a member of “journey north”.
I have seen both monarch and swallowtail butterflies this year.
Fewer swallow tails.
Since I now am 70 I am to old to tag. I started seeing monarchs early july. Heading south.
I am in Stanley NM.
I am concerned that the migration is to early.
In 2005 I noticed a change in migration of birds and butterflies. I fear it is due to the tsunami in India.
I also noticed my solar array which I adjusted with equinox was off by 2 inches?
Animals are making nests to soon or very late. Or not at all.
Very strange. Monarchs and lunar moths are earlier. And a moth like humming bird has stopped coming?
I’m not liking the way you are holding it. Your going to hurt it that way. Learn how to hold them properly.
Their not always in plain site. Their somewhere safe, transforming.
Milkweed pods, once they start to open, I collect some, put in a open container, and plant later.
I’m not easy transplanting them, I pull them, relocate or give them away, just keep them watered, they recover quickly, in Florida.
Very Hardi Plant.
Ted R Richardson says: “Love this article, I have much respect for Butterflies.”
> Yes…respect for butterflies, and all living things. Very stately of you Ted! Very nice story indeed and sad in a sorta way. It is rare I see monarchs anymore. So far I’ve seen maybe a handful this season. Most of what I see are cabbage butterflies and even they are so very few in number. Even out in Otsego County, where they have the Vermont attitude and keep their land a maze of endless fields and let flowers grow to the roadside…I see more bees and butterflies out that ways, but still…very few monarchs and other. It is very comforting to see all of the honeybees I saw out that ways last week, but still…there just aren’t the numbers there should be (or used to be) seems to me, especially regards the butterflies.
So milkweed is all they’ll eat…but they need Goldenrod to survive?
A little contradiction here?
Milkweed for the caterpillers. Goldenrod for the butterflies.
I love Monarch Butterflies every day I think about them… They are beautiful
We have milkweed in my garden and have seen about 5 hatch out. Befoe i would see the caterpillars but they would vanish, thought birds were eating them. We found cocoons and keep an eye on them. It was awesome!!!. We live in westerk Kentucky. Love love the butterflies
What were the release and found dates, please?