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Monarch Roosts

Monarch migration is in full swing.  Some of the migrating butterflies from the Northeast travel as far as 3,000 miles to reach their winter destination in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico.  In addition to finding sources of nectar along their migration pathways to build their fat reserves Monarchs must also seek shelter at night, roosting on land when it cools down and they can no longer fly. 

It appears that roosting is critical for migrating Monarch survival.  Just before dark these solitary diurnal migrants gather in clusters called roosts. A roost can consist of just a few butterflies up to thousands clinging to leaves and branches on a single tree. Cedar, fir, and pine are common species of trees used for roosts, but deciduous trees are also used.

Most roosting trees are along a principal flyway, located in a cool, moist area, provide shelter from the wind and are near a source of nectar. Often roosts last for only a night or two but can last a week or two. Monarchs can but do not necessarily use the same resting sites year after year. It’s generally accepted that these roosts are an anti-predation tactic, employing the strategy of safety in numbers.  To see a map of documented 2021 roosts, go to Journey North’s site:  https://maps.journeynorth.org/map/?map=monarch-roost-fall&year=2021.

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5 responses

  1. Bruce Flewelling

    Many years ago, I found a roost tree in Hancock. There were hundreds of Monarch’s hanging off the limbs. Quite a sight!

    September 14, 2021 at 9:16 am

  2. Alice

    Roosts must be so incredible to see. He is very handsome! I’ve released 49 Monarchs this year, all from eggs on our Milkweed & have 8 chrysalises. The 3rd year I’ve done this…it is a special experience.

    September 14, 2021 at 9:25 am

  3. I saw a roost tree a few years ago, in a cedar grove on Star Island, off the coast of NH. It was remarkable! It was nearing dusk, and from a distance I noticed that the trees looked weird, so I walked closer. Just as I got close, the sun came out and all the butterflies spread their wings. It was stunning!
    My 10-year-old granddaughter and her mom have rescued monarch caterpillars and some eggs from milkweed plants leaning out over the road. The main feature in their living room at this time of year is their “butterfly habitat.” I don’t know how many they’ve watched spinning their beautiful pupa cases, and eventually emerging transformed (how in the world do they do that???!!), ready to be released outside – quite a wonder-filled experience!
    Thanks for this lovely photo… – Dell

    September 14, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    • Alice

      Watching the caterpillars make a chrysalis (I took a great video of the last 3 min a few days ago) & watching the Monarchs eclose (come out of the chrysalis) is so incredibly amazing…8 more chrysalises in the habitat.

      September 14, 2021 at 1:20 pm

  4. Cindy

    The afternoon before this post, I was driving on Rt. 202 and a monarch appeared right in front of me. I was afraid it was a goner, but, of course, you can’t avoid them. When I got to my destination, I had to open my tailgate to remove a box and out of the box fluttered a monarch! It then landed inside empty grocery bags, but by gently tipping the bags, I was able to help it fly out. It had to be that the monarch I was afraid I hit on Rt. 202 was propelled into the open moon roof. While cats reportedly have nine lives, I know of at least one monarch with a couple.

    September 17, 2021 at 6:14 pm

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