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Nature Notebook – Migrating Butterflies

QUESTION: Which of the butterflies below migrate in the fall? ANSWER: All of them.

Monarch butterflies are the most well-known butterfly migrators, but they are not alone. The speckled painted lady butterfly executes an equally impressive migration to northern Mexico (and from Africa to Europe and back again). However, the numbers are highly variable. Some years clouds of migrating painted ladies can be observed; in other years, only a few individuals flutter by.

The third butterfly is the Great Southern White. Its migration distance, although not as impressive as the monarch or the painted lady, is still considerable. It will move up down the southern Atlantic coast, especially in Florida (its home base) and even ventures into Texas. Unlike the monarch and painted lady, its migration seems to be driven by the need to find new larval areas versus the others’ need to escape cold temperatures.

The long-distance migrating butterflies must be sexually immature to live enough to complete the route. Nature dictates that mature butterflies can only live long enough to breed.