Monarch Butterfly Migration May Disappoint This Year

Sep 13, 2013

A fall tradition is to catch the monarch migration in late September and Early October. This year, however, there may not be much to see.


It takes four generations and up to 3,000 miles for the monarch migration to make its roundtrip each year. Virginia is one of the many and varied locations in which one generation of the monarch will breed.

Internationally recognized monarch expert and Nelson County, Virginia resident Dr Lincoln Brower says the orange and black insects usually arrive here at the end of April and early May but this year’s population is negligible.

Brower says the decline is unique this year and widespread. It is not only the observation of the monarch in flight but when they stop flight to wait for the right tailwind to continue on they gather in clusters and those too are very few.

The most telling measurement of the monarch population will come from the size of the over-wintering area on 12 mountain ranges in Mexico. The count, however, does not come out until the spring. Brower says the Mexican government holds off on releasing the number-especially when they could be so low-because of the impact that could have on tourism.

While the migration in the United States appears to be waning, Brower says the species itself is not endangered.
We can improve the monarch’s chances of surviving in Virginia through better land management and greener agricultural practices. The monarch lives exclusively on the milk weed and there is a lot we can do to promote its growth.

Part 2 of this story will air on Morning Edition next week.

Dr. Lincoln Brower