A spectacle dubbed as the "monarch migration" sees monarch butterflies embark on a months-long journey to Mexico, and the iconic winged critters have been populating Chicago throughout the week.
After breeding in Canada and other northern areas throughout the summer, the monarchs are starting to flap toward the south now. Chief curator of the Chicago Academy of Sciences at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum Doug Taron said the butterflies will pass through Chicago, the Mississippi Valley and Texas before setting up camp about 100 miles west of Mexico City.
Typically, an abundance of butterflies can be spotted throughout September, with peak monarch migrations in the area falling this week, Taron noted.
Taron said there have been reports of butterfly clusters in central Michigan, which is an indication that the creatures "are definitely coming."
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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.
For those looking to spot monarchs, the lakefront is an ideal location, 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.
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum will host their annual Flutter Into Fall festival, which celebrates the monarch migration, Saturday, letting guests marvel at the butterflies up close. The day will consist of free activities like storytelling, nature walks and monarch tagging.
Recently, the orange-and-black critters have 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 continue to grow and migrate.
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."