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Discover Nature: Monarchs Migrate

An orange and black monarch butterfly perches atop a cluster of pink Liatris flowers in front of a blurred backdrop of green leaves and grasses.
A monarch butterfly sits atop a stand of blooming Liatris. Monarchs are beginning their migration south for the winter. Watch for these butterflies adding to the color of late summer and early autumn wildflowers in Missouri.

This week in the woods, or backyard garden, you’ll likely cross paths with the monarch butterfly.


In fact, you’ll find monarchs in a wide variety of habitats, including fields, roadsides, and landscape plantings. 


This large butterfly starts out as a white caterpillar with yellow and black bands, but transforms into a striking, flying insect, with distinct orange wings and black veins. 


Many of the monarchs we see in Missouri this week are on their way to Mexico, where they’ll overwinter. In the spring they’ll fly north again, making it to the southern United States where they reproduce and die, leaving behind a new generation to continue the migration. 


Monarchs are common across Missouri, but habitat loss in Mexico and herbicide use that kills milkweeds in the United States has led to their decline throughout North America. 


Monarchs play an important role as pollinators in ecosystems along their migration routes. They depend on milkweeds to survive, and planting these wildflowers is a great way to help conserve the species. 


Learn more about monarch butterflies and how you can help protect them with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide


Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation. 


Kyle Felling was born in the rugged northwest Missouri hamlet of St. Joseph (where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended). Inspired from a young age by the spirit of the early settlers who used St. Joseph as an embarkation point in their journey westward, Kyle developed the heart of an explorer and yearned to leave for adventures of his own. Perhaps as a result of attending John Glenn elementary school, young Kyle dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was disheartened when someone told him that astronauts had to be good at math. He also considered being a tow truck driver, and like the heroes of his favorite childhood television shows (The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk) he saw himself traveling the country, helping people in trouble and getting into wacky adventures. He still harbors that dream.
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