How Fast Can Monarchs Migrate?
Clues from a Monarch Tagged on Atlantic Coast
(More True Stories About Tagged Monarch Butterflies)

October 1999
One tiny monarch that was tagged and recaptured on the Atlantic Coast reveals some clues:

  • The monarch was tagged at 1 p.m. on October 6, 1999, in Cape May, New Jersey.
  • A man recaptured the monach on October 7, 1999, at 4:56 p.m. on Fisherman Island, Virginia.

This butterfly's flight times let us calculate how many miles a monarch can migrate in a single day.

Try This! A Challenge For Older Students

1. How far?
How many miles did the monarch travel?
Find the two places on a map and measure the distance between them:

  • Cape May is at the southernmost tip New Jersey.
  • Fisherman Island is at the southernmost tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, on the north end of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

2. How fast?
How quickly (in miles per hour) might the tagged monarch traveled? Here are some helpful facts:

  • Monarchs do not fly in the dark. Sunset was about 6:30 pm on October 6th and sunrise was about 7:00 am on October 7th.
  • October temperatures can be cool and monarchs can't fly until they're warm enough. They typicially go into their roosts an hour or two before sunset.They may stay in their roost an hour or two after sunrise in the morning.

For Perspective: If a butterfly left your hometown today and headed for Mexico, what town might it reach by tomorrow? Use the distance the tagged butterfly traveled. Find a town the same distance between your hometown and Mexico.