Summer’s not quite over yet, but as IT melts in the D.C. heat, we’re already thinking ahead to autumn, when East Coast foliage turns to a sea of russet and orange and parts of the country are witness to their own wave of black and orange: the annual monarch migration.
Beginning late August and ending in November, millions of monarchs make their way from Canada to the California coast and the Transvolcanic Range in Mexico. No one’s quite sure how they do it— monarchs are the only butterfly to migrate so far over several generations, which means none ever makes the more than 2,000-mile trek more than once—fascinating both butterfly enthusiasts and scientists alike.
If you want to bring the migration to your own backyard, check out the peak migration dates in your region (dates are calculated by latitude lines), and plant milkweed or start a butterfly garden to attract the colorful creatures.
Or, visit NABA’s International Butterfly Park in Mission, Texas, anytime during the year. Located in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where over 300 species of butterfly have been spotted, Mission’s subtropical climate and diverse plant species are ideal for butterflies. The 100-acre Butterfly Park is currently re-vegetating its grounds and constructing a new Welcome Center and observation area, with hopes of becoming an ecotourism and educational hot spot. Take a guided walk through the park every Sunday. Rent binoculars for $1 or bring your own. The park is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.
Can’t get to Texas? Check out other places to see butterflies in their natural habitats, like the Smithsonian Butterfly Habitat Garden in Washington, D.C., Reiman Gardens in Iowa, the Oklahoma City Zoo’s Butterfly Garden, or Butterflies at the Outdoor Campus in South Dakota.