Butterfly Migration

What is Butterfly Migration

Each year, hundreds and thousands of butterflies undertake a journey, traveling from their breeding grounds in the north and reaching their overwintering grounds in the south. This annual migration is undertaken by different butterfly species, such as the Monarch, which is a unique phenomenon.

Do all Butterfly Species Migrate

While the migration of Monarch butterflies across North America is one of the most amazing natural events, several other species undertake a small migratory journey. These species include Common Buckeye, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, American Lady, Cloudless Sulphur, Question Mark, Fiery Skipper, Clouded Skipper, Mourning Cloak, and Sachem.

Why do Butterflies Migrate: When and Where do they go

Migrating to a new place ensures their survival and ample food sources for their caterpillars. Butterfly species like the Monarch do not survive the extreme cold during the winters in the U.S., and they migrate to the west and south each autumn for escaping the cold weather. Migration also allows them to keep themselves safe from parasites that may accumulate in their habitats at the end of summer. In the U.S., Monarch butterflies usually start migrating in October each year, but it may begin earlier.

How do they Migrate

Scientists have found that the brains of butterflies have specialized molecules, which are sensitive to the magnetic field of the Earth, working as a compass. The butterflies use these molecules along with information from the sun’s position to find their way and migrate to different places.

Interesting Facts

  • Monarch butterflies may travel more than 3,000 miles to migrate from Canada and the northeastern U.S. to reach their overwintering habitats in central and southwestern Mexico.
  • The Painted Lady butterflies in North America migrate to northern Mexico and west Texas in winter. Their population in Africa undertakes an autumn migration from Africa to the Arctic Circle, making a round trip covering a distance of 9,000 miles involving butterflies of six successive generations.