The Ridges Sanctuary

Preservation, Education, and Research

Monarch Madness

Monarch Butterfies


We are looking forward to our Monarch Madness event this Saturday! As we’ve prepared for our 2022 tagging season, we have noticed fewer Monarch caterpillars on our properties. Since late July, our dedicated staff has been out scouring milkweed plants for caterpillars to bring back to our Monarch enclosure. However, most of our searches have ended with empty bug jars.

This dip in numbers could be for many reasons. Monarch Watch, a leading organization in Monarch research, reported that the cold spring delayed the Monarch migration northward. In addition to the already lower Monarch population this year, the eastern Midwest is likely to experience low numbers through the beginning of September.

Because of the low numbers of Monarchs this year, tagging will be limited at our Monarch Madness event this Saturday. However, we are excited to share the tagging process with everyone and talk about the Monarch’s annual migration! In addition, tags will be available to take home for those who live in the area and are interested in tagging wild Monarch butterflies.

Monarch Madness will start at 10:00am this Saturday with a Butterfly Story Time for young children and families, followed by our Tagging Event from 11:00am-2:00pm. Sponsor a Monarch Butterfly for $5 - quantities limited. All Monarch Madness events will take place at our Nature Center, 8166 State Highway 57, Baileys Harbor.

You’re probably no stranger to the Monarch butterfly. In fact, they are one of the most studied species in North America! But what makes them so special?

The monarch butterfly undertakes one of the most impressive migrations of the insect class. Every year, the last generation of Monarchs that hatch from their chrysalides will travel from Canada or the northern United States down to the mountains of central Mexico.

The monarch lifecycle starts with the adult butterfly laying an egg on a milkweed plant. Milkweed is essential to the monarch lifecycle. While the poisonous chemistry of the plant isn’t harmful to caterpillars, it can be deadly for hungry vertebrate predators. Milkweed is the main food source for growing caterpillars, which hatch from their eggs and eat their way through entire plants. After about 10-14 days, monarch caterpillars will form a chrysalis. They will transform into the adult butterfly in another 10-14 days, then hatch from their chrysalis and fly to other milkweed plants looking for food and mates.

Throughout the summer, the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly is 2-5 weeks. However, the last generation to hatch every summer will not mate. Instead, they will migrate between 2,000 and 3,000 miles to central Mexico to overwinter! This is no small feat for the Monarch butterfly, and it takes conservation efforts across the United States, Mexico, and Canada to provide habitat and create awareness of the migration in order to safeguard this species.

Every August, we rear Monarch butterflies in our nature center to spread awareness and educate the public about monarchs and on the ways in which we can help them. Stop by our nature center to see our monarch caterpillars!

On August 27th, we’ll be hosting our Annual Monarch Madness event! More details to come, but be sure to get your monarch tagging hands ready because for $5 per tag you can help with an international citizen science monitoring program by tagging a monarch before it heads out on its long journey to Mexico.

To learn more about Monarch butterflies and their migration, visit the resources below:

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