On Faded Wings

April 19, 2018 by Elizabeth Howard

No longer their brilliant orange, the monarchs from Mexico are nearing the end — and a new generation is about to continue the journey north.

“We spotted lots of remigrants in multiple locations through the weekend. The condition of these Monarchs is noticeably more worn and tattered.” Chuck Patterson, Driftwood, Texas, April 15, 2018

A Week of Firsts

Sightings reported between April 12 - 18 revealed:

  • 1st arrivals were reported in 5 new states - KS, NC, VA, MD, and NJ
  • 1st monarch of the next generation was reported, by an observer in TX
  • For the 1st time in Journey North’s history of tracking migration (25 years) we’re seeing a convincing pattern: monarchs moving up the Atlantic Coast appear to be coming from Florida, not Mexico.

Atlantic Flyway

Monarchs traveling in the Atlantic states advanced dramatically this week. The leading edge jumped 300 miles, from central North Carolina to southern New Jersey. The NJ monarch would have flown 2,300 miles from Mexico, but only 800 miles from Florida.  Take a look at the animated migration map to see the convincing pattern.

Central Flyway 

The cold spring in the mid-continent has continued to stall the migration. The leading edge is still stuck near the northern Oklahoma border, where it has been for almost a month! This spring’s milkweed is still hundreds of miles south of where it was emerging last spring at this time.

Endings and Beginnings

The monarchs of the overwintering generation have only a few weeks left to live. The worn-winged butterflies are no longer their brilliant orange, and most will have died by the first of May. Meanwhile, a new generation of monarchs is beginning to emerge. On fresh wings, these butterflies will complete the spring migration.

The first sighting of a fresh-winged monarch was reported this week in Montgomery, Texas.

“Of the 6 monarchs I saw this morning (April 13), all seemed to have at least slightly faded wings, but there was one exception…”

Monarch Wings Over Time