Eastern Monarch Migration
In March, the great migration of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) will leave Central Mexico and the Southern United States using a combination of internal sun and magnetic “compasses” to migrate north. By April, these monarchs will get as far north as Virginia, mating, laying eggs, and nectaring along the way and a new generation will continue the trip Northeast. By May, they will reach New York where the second and third generations will recolonize their eastern breeding grounds throughout the summer and into fall.
Monarch butterflies call Madison Square Park home from May through September, and it’s always a special event to see them. Witnessing multiple generations of monarchs is a sign that our horticulture team has planted enough Milkweed to sustain our visitors. Milkweed leaves are vital to the development of eggs and become food for the hatching monarch caterpillars. Finally, the butterflies emerge, nectaring on the flowers, before beginning the cycle once more. In September and October, the final generation of monarchs will be born, eat, and metamorphose, but unlike the first three generations that only live for two to six weeks, this generation lives longer. Migratory monarchs spend six to eight months migrating back to the Southern United States and the mountains of Central Mexico where they will spend the winter waiting for the season to cycle anew.