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The Buzz

Migration Watch: Monarchs Have Landed in Illinois

(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

We've been charting the progress of monarch butterfly migration for a few weeks now, and they've hit another milestone as they've crossed over the Illinois border. 

We still have some time before they arrive in Will County from their wintering grounds in Mexico, but the trek northward is underway.

Thanks to a map from Journey North, you can see where they are based on reported sightings from citizen scientists. In Illinois, they've made it to Sparta, which is northwest of Carbondale. 

They appear to be a little bit ahead of schedule compared with 2020. At this point last year, they had made it just west of Carbondale. Last year, the first monarch was reported in Will County in Naperville on May 15. Historically, they usually arrive here around the first week in May.

Suzy Lyttle, a program coordinator at Plum Creek Nature Center, said each year's migration can vary depending on the weather conditions they experience. They're much more delicate than birds, she said, and they can't fly in the rain. Winds can also make a big difference. They normally fly at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, and favorable wind conditions can allow them to travel anywhere from 50 miles to 100 miles per day.

"From year to year, things change," Lyttle said of their annual trek north. "It just depends. Some years, they're early and some years, they're late."


You can get involved

Do you want to get in on the reporting action? It's simple and can be accomplished directly through the Journey North site.

Just sign up for an account and you're all set. It only takes a minute to share your sighting. The data, which is submitted by more than 60,000 registered users in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, is used to better understand migratory species.

For now, while you're waiting for them to arrive in your yard, here's something fascinating to check out: Some very hungry monarch caterpillars we've previously raised at Plum Creek Nature Center.


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