Thousands of monarch butterflies are stopping along the Gulf Coast this week as part of their migration pattern, which sends them along the eastern seaboard toward Mexico.
“The monarch butterflies that have inhabited the whole eastern part of the United States from southern Canada all the way down here to Florida on this side of the Rocky Mountains, they fly south and they gather along the coast and fly along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico,” said Mary Salinas, the residential horticulture agent at the University of Florida’s IFAS Extension Office in Santa Rosa County. “They go down to Mexico where they’re not going to freeze.”
This particular generation of monarch butterflies lives about six months and will come back to the United States to mate after the winter time, laying eggs along the way.
During the monarchs’ stop in Northwest Florida, they tend to congregate in places where they have food and shelter. They like flowers and vegetation that have nectar, their main food source, and places they can hide in if a storm comes through.
Salinas said people can help the butterflies in their journey by planting good nectar plants so they have something to eat, and not using pesticides in their landscaping.
“They’ll be around probably another week or so,” Salinas said. “It depends on the weather and the temperatures. They have their own internal compass, but a lot of that is still being researched by scientists.”