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Monarch butterfly migration to Mexico

The butterflies that leave the U.P. in the fall are not the same butterflies that return in the summer.
Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 5:59 PM EDT
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BAY DE NOC TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - It was 26 years ago when people started recognizing all the monarch butterflies coming to the Stonington Peninsula in Delta County. Several people questioned why so many butterflies gathered there every fall.

“No one really had an answer for that question. So, in 1994, the forest service approached Wildlife Unlimited to help fund a study,” said Susan Jamison a Monarch Project Volunteer.

They discovered the peninsula acts as a meeting place before the butterflies migrate to Mexico.

“As the days get cooler and shorter, the monarchs will start flying down toward the end of the peninsula,” said Jamison.

They’ll spend a few days nesting on the cedar trees and when the wind is right, they’ll embark on the nearly 2,000-mile journey to Mexico. Before the monarchs leave, volunteers come out to tag the butterflies so they can be tracked in Mexico.

“The tag has a number and so each monarch that is tagged, we record the date, if it was a male or a female, and the number of the tag,” said Jamison.

That information is sent to the Tagging Center at the University of Kansas. But the Upper Peninsula won’t see those tagged butterflies again.

“When we see Monarchs here in May and June, those Monarchs are the second and third generation of the ones that left here in the fall,” said Jamison.

Since the monarchs don’t call or text to give an ETA, it’s hard to say exactly when the butterflies will gather Peninsula Point and when they’ll head out to Mexico. The season is usually mid-August until mid-September.

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