The Buzz

Migration watch: Monarchs have landed in Illinois

A monarch butterfly rest on the purple flowers of wild bergamot.
(Photo by Anthony Schalk)

Spring has been creeping in for a few weeks now, and here's another exciting indication that warmer temperatures are right around the corner: Monarch butterflies have arrived in Illinois.

It might be awhile yet until monarchs are seen locally with regularity, and you can chart their progress based on reported sightings from citizen scientists thanks to a map from Journey North. So far, no sightings have been reported in Will County, but there have been sightings in central Illinois on March 30 and in the Rockford area on April 8.

Historically, the first sightings in Will County come sometime in May. However, last year the first Will County sighting was on April 13 in Bolingbrook.

Program coordinator Suzy Lyttle said each year's migration can vary depending on the weather conditions they encounter along their journey. They're much more delicate than birds, she said, and they can't fly in the rain. Winds also can make a big difference. They normally can fly at speeds up to 20 mph, and favorable wind conditions can allow them to travel anywhere from 40 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: A segment we did on monarchs for our "Buzz" nature show.



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