Nectar and Migration
September 8, 2016 by Elizabeth Howard

Building fat reserves as they move toward Mexico, where can monarchs find the nectar they need?

Monarch Butterflies nectaring in an Iowa prairie
Nectaring on milkweed on the North Dakota prairie
By Neil Shook, Woodworth, North Dakota, September 3, 2016


The migration is clearly picking up steam. People saw butterflies flying over traffic, landing in gardens, and even crossing the Great Lakes.

"I saw three monarchs while I was in a sailboat in the middle of Lake Michigan," reported Sarah on Sunday, September 4th.

Fueling Up, Heading South
Along the migration trail, people noticed intense nectaring:

"Hundreds of monarchs arrived in my field to enjoy the garlic chive blossoms. They arise long before me, eat until the sun sets, and then roost for the night in the nearby trees," said Michael Wilford of St. Joseph, Michigan on Tuesday.

Building Lipids
As they travel, monarchs must find the food they need not only to fuel their migration but also to build sufficient lipid reserves for overwintering. They'll eat little to nothing during their 5-month stay in Mexico. A scientific paper by Dr. Lincoln Brower shows how lipid reserves increase as the monarchs move southward:

Stopover Habitat
The places monarchs feed and rest during migration are called stopover sites. Finding enough food is critical. You can help monarchs by creating a monarch Waystation. Plant flowers that continue to bloom late into the fall such as the Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia rotundifolia.

Stop and Go
Monarch Butterfly nectaring in an Iowa prairie
Stopping to Eat
Neil Shook
Monarch Butterflies resting at overnight roost in South Dakota.
Stopping to Rest
Crystal Adolph


Monarch Butterfly Waystations
Finding Waystations


Report Your Sightings
What to Report to Track Fall Migration Monarch Butterfly: Adult Sighted Monarch Butterfly: Egg or Larva Sighted
What to Report Adult Butterflies
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Eggs and Larvae
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Monarch Butterfly Migration Map: Fall Roosts, Fall 2016 Monarch Butterfly Migration Map: Peak Migration Fall 2016 Nectar and Monarch Butterfly Migration

Fall Roosts
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Peak Migration
map | list | animation
Next Update September 15, 2016