Autumn is the season of orange and gold, not just because of the changing leaves but also because of the Monarch butterflies in our skies. Every year, thousands of them can be observed at Ontario’s Point Pelee National Park as they embark on their incredible migration down south.
From late August to mid-October, waves of the distinctive butterflies “begin one of nature’s greatest journeys” through Ontario and across Lake Erie, eventually ending up in Mexico, according to Parks Canada.
Point Pelee is a temporary home for the Monarchs around this time because it’s one of the shortest points for them to cross The Great Lakes. The park keeps track of their movements and provides updates about where and when to see them.
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“Resting monarchs are best viewed at the Tip just before sunset or in the early morning – look for sheltered areas near the tops of trees,” Parks Canada says. You’ll want to bring a pair of binoculars too because the butterflies resemble “dead leaves” with their wings closed, making them easy to miss.
The Monarchs travel a whole 3,000 km south to the mountainous forests of central Mexico. The journey is a long one, and studies show that the butterflies spend most of the time resting in the trees, flying and feeding only on the warmest days.
In late spring, their offspring begin to arrive in Point Pelee National Park and prepare to start the process all over again.
Sadly, scientists have noticed that the Monarch butterfly population has dropped significantly in recent years. But, Parks Canada says the U.S. and Mexico have joined the effort to save their population, and Point Pelee is working to restore their habitat.
You can help save these beautiful insects too by planting a butterfly garden with native plants or by becoming a citizen scientist to share your observations with butterfly watch organizations. You can find all of the details here.