They’re back! Monarchs return to the south coast

May 28, 2022

The wait is finally over!

This past week has brought several reports of Monarch butterflies along the south coast of Massachusetts.  

These large orange beauties should be showing up to a milkweed patch near you shortly, if they haven’t already.  By far the most recognized of all butterflies, the Monarch is the also most travelled of our migrant species.  Wintering in the oyamel fir forests of Mexico, the monarch begins it’s trip northward every year in March. 

Along the way, the adult butterflies will mate and lay eggs on milkweed plants. The caterpillars will then feed on the milkweed, transform into a chrysalis and emerge as adult butterflies many times before they arrive here in Massachusetts.  Yes, the Monarchs that left Mexico are the grandparents (or great grandparents) of the ones that we see by the time they get here in late May.   It is quite the journey, and we all eagerly await the first reports each year.  

In addition to the Monarch, you may begin to see more and more species in your gardens. 

The tiny skipper butterflies, such as the Peck’s skipper, the Zabulon skipper and the Tawny-edged skipper were recently found in Marion, and are undoubtedly widespread across the south coast.  These tiny butterflies are often mistaken as moths, but are indeed butterflies!  They can often be seen nectaring on small flowers like buttercups, dandelions and violets.  Keep a close eye out for them and you will begin seeing them on a regular basis.  

One other species that I am asked about regularly is the Question Mark butterfly.  The Question Mark gets it’s name from the tiny white marks on the outside of it’s mottled dark colored wings.  White commas with a white dot under it, forming a question mark!  Although you may see one sunning with it’s wings open, displaying it’s stunning orange and black inner wing coloring, they are the masters of disguise, looking like a dead leaf when they close their wings tight.  It is an amazing display, allowing it to survive unnoticed from would be prey.  Keep an eye out for them.  

As always, our field trips which are free to the public (registration required) are a great place to get to know the butterflies and meet other butterfly enthusiasts!  Visit the Massachusetts Butterfly Club Website and click on 2022 Schedule to see a list of the currently scheduled field trips.  

Participants on our field trips are encouraged to bring water, bug repellant and any appropriate sun protection that may be needed during a 2+ hour walk.