Monarch Migration: What to Know as Butterflies Fly Through Chicago This Month

Across the next few weeks, waves of monarch butterflies will flutter through Chicago, as the critters are on a mission to migrate south for the winter.

For the best locations to spot the butterflies and how long they could stay in the Chicago area, chief curator of the Chicago Academy of Sciences at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum Doug Taron shared the latest details.

Here's what to know:

Where are the butterflies headed?

Dubbed as the "monarch migration," the spectacle sees the winged insects embark on a months-long journey to Mexico.

After breeding in Canada and other northern areas throughout the summer, the monarchs are starting to flap toward the south now. Taron said the butterflies will pass through Chicago, the Mississippi Valley and Texas before setting up camp about 100 miles west of Mexico City.

When can Chicago expect to see more waves of monarch butterflies?

Typically, an abundance of butterflies can be spotted throughout September, with peak monarch migrations in the area falling Sept. 5-10, Taron noted.

Taron said there have been reports of butterfly clusters in central Michigan, which is an indication that the creatures "are definitely coming."

Chicagoans will be able to make out bundles of butterflies well into October, too, as Taron said groups of stragglers are expected to round out the migration.

Where's the best spot to see the monarchs?

The lakefront is an ideal location for monarch sightings, as the critters tend to fly along coastlines, Taron said.

Parks also become heavily populated with butterflies due to the nectar found in flowers. The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum has a butterfly haven with lush plants that monarchs can gather on, as well.

"You can see plenty of butterflies right here in Chicago, whether you come to butterfly haven or just go to one of the parks in the summertime," Taron said.

Can you attract the monarchs to your yard?

The orange-and-black critters have recently dwindled in numbers, landing on the endangered species list in July.

Taron said residents in the area can plant a number of helpful greens to aid the monarchs as they grow and migrate in the coming weeks.

Planting milkweed is an easy and cost-effective way to feed caterpillars, according to Taron. Growing flowers that bloom later in the summer also helps butterflies maintain a steady source of food along their journey. These tips could attract the butterflies to your yard, too.

"The monarch butterfly has been declining on its wintering grounds in Mexico for a while now," Taron said. "We're hopeful that through conservation efforts, we can prevent further declines."

Are there any ways to see the monarchs up close?

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum will host their annual Flutter Into Fall festival, which celebrates the monarch migration, Sept. 10. The day will consist of free activities like storytelling, nature walks and monarch tagging.

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