Tuesday, September 5, 2023

DEC: Help monarch butterflies on their long migration south 

Monarch butterfly after it emerged from a chrysalis.

Monarch butterflies  (Danaus plexippus) begin their annual fall migration around mid-August. These butterflies are the great-great-grandchildren of the monarchs that migrated to Mexico last fall.   You can help monarchs by providing food (nectar) and keeping those areas protected:

  • Turn a portion of your lawn into a wildflower meadow—plant milkweed or other native wildflowers.
  • Delay mowing areas with milkweed until later in the fall.
  • Avoid using herbicides—they kill all life-stages of monarchs (egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult).
  • Report sightings of adults online. View a map of the sightings so far this year.

Don’t know when their migration peaks in your area? Check out this chart.

Chrysalis Stage
Have you seen a small green pod about an inch-long? This is a monarch caterpillar after it enters the pupa stage and is now in a chrysalis. If you see one, try not to disturb it. They will find a safe place—often under a milkweed leaf—to enter this stage in their development, which lasts about 9-14 days. Sometimes they will pupate hanging under eaves, decks, other garden plants, or even on window screens!

Photo at top: Monarch butterfly after it emerged from a chrysalis. Photo by Tonya Whitford Condon. Photo provided by the NYS DEC.

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

8 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    In your pollinator garden, it is a good idea to plant plenty of LATE-blooming annuals and perennials for both migrating Monarchs and hummingbirds. In my gardens, Bee Balm, Butterfly Weed, and Garden Phlox tend to bloom throughout migration. Echinacea are generally fading about now. I only feed hummers now as they are arriving in Spring when they are severely depleted and the natural foods are spotty. The rest of the season, they now have plenty of wildflowers and blooming bushes they enjoy.

  2. Naj Wikoff says:

    If the DEC could get the DOT County highway departments to delay their roadside mowing until after Monarchs migrate, that would make a huge difference in saving this endanger butterfly as thousands of milkweeds line our roadways. Best would be a joint announcement from the DEC and these agencies that have so agreed, then such pleas to local residents would have more force.

    • Boreas says:


      Agree. In my hamlet, the town owns a sunny, field on a bluff overlooking Lake Champlain that gets mowed twice/year. I suggested planting two large pollinator gardens in the middle of the field that would NOT get mowed – except possibly in early spring. Walking trails were to be mowed and benches installed for a pleasant alternative to walking on the streets. Town Supervisor was fine with it, but community response was nil, so the mowing continues. The county was even looking for ways to spend a small windfall grant. Unfortunately, helping pollinators is off most people’s radar. When they are all gone, people will take notice.

      I had a particularly bad year with very few adult Monarchs visiting. They have so many continental threats that reversing population declines seems unlikely.

    • Boreas says:

      I think the key is to be educating kids about their surroundings and getting them away from their smart phones. People need to have Nature in their hearts and minds when they reach voting age. Unfortunately, old farts like myself tend to be too tied up in politics to nurture Nature – as if Nature is something we can ignore and only pay her respect when she is gone.

  3. Gary says:

    Maybe DEC should send this to the DOT and county highway Departments who mow down the milkweeds before the caterpillars and chrysalis are hatched.

  4. Joe Kozlina says:

    Look around at all the medians in between the ribbons of concrete we call highways and the potential, to only mow once a year to save fuel, reduce carbon, save federal and state monies and lastly and most importantly, allow plants and wild flowers to grow naturally for the future and health of, butterflys, birds, animals, people and our planet, is overwhelming. I realized this as a child and wondered why it has not been done yet. I am 65 and see the lack of leadership every where when it comes to sensible natural and sustainable ways to achieve the same end goal. Take for example the road salt study. Really, we are still studying the affects? The effects are right under our noses for decades and still nothing from the state. Shameful. So helping the monarchs while poisoning our lakes with salt is insanity. The solutions are simple, stop mowing areas just to look at grass, this also means the vast lawns many mow just to look at a carpet of green, and also stop pouring salt into our lakes. Doesnt seem like much effort would be needed to stop this practice. Just common sense.

    • Boreas says:


      Lady Bird Johnson made a little progress, but that was about the last time any progress was made. Although I believe her plan was more about “beautification” than sound environmental practices.

      Some mowing does improve safety on smaller roads – say within 15 feet of the side of the road. In my area, some of the State roads have not been mowed – possibly because of the wet weather. Unfortunately, the weeds are now over a deer’s head. They really cannot be seen if they are close to the road’s edge. We have allotta deer in my area, and it is coming up on the rut. I am driving much slower, but I am tailgated much of the time. Sorry – I learned to drive in PA and know how unpredictable deer can be around crossings and fields.

  5. JohnL says:

    The 1000’s of acres of solar panels in New York must have a very significant impact on the plight of the monarch. I’ve been looking for milkweed and a couple places locally where there used to be a lot of it, there are now 2 large solar panel projects that are mowed spotlessly clean. The butterflys are collateral damage, it would appear.

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