Monarch Butterflies

Monarch male 512

An amazing story of an amazing butterfly!

 The Monarch Butterfly

The Monarch (Danaus plexippus) is one of the most colorful and well-known butterfly species in North America.  Patterned in orange and black, and with a wingspan of about 4 inches, Monarchs can be found throughout the central, eastern, and far western United States.  Their annual migrations are unique among butterflies, covering 1,500+ miles.  For information about these fascinating creatures, please check the following link:


Monarch Watch

 Monarchs at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge


Each spring, Monarchs pass through Quivira on their journey north.  Monarchs seen during this period are often the same ones that spent the winter in Mexico.  They search for nectar sources, as well as for milkweed plants on which to lay their eggs.

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A Monarch found resting in a shelter belt upon arriving in the area in mid-April.

For information about when Monarchs first appear, and when large numbers occur in the fall, check Quivira's Phenology page:  


 During the first half of the summer, Monarchs are seen occasionally.  By late August, the butterflies are seen regularly throughout, and are actively seeking milkweed plants for egg-laying.  Two weeks after the eggs are laid, the unique, striped caterpillars are seen eating the milkweed foliage.


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Monarch egg on a milkweed plant

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Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed plant

By mid-September, large numbers of Monarchs can be seen migrating through the area.  Many stop to nectar, but others are simply seen in the air heading south.  During certain periods in most years, anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred can be seen both feeding (especially on goldenrod) and roosting in sheltered areas of woodlands.  Most years, Monarchs are hard to find in the area past mid-October.

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Migrating Monarchs feeding on goldenrod, September 2010

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Clustering Monarchs in woodland, September 2009


Monarch Mania at Quivira - a family event 

In mid-September, Quivira hosts a free, family event called Monarch Mania.  Among the various activities is the opportunity for the visitor to capture Monarchs (using equipment supplied by the staff) and have the refuge staff place tags on the wings.  Each tag has a unique code that can be traced, should the Monarch (or its tag) be found again.  See the above link (Monarch Watch) for more information about the tagging.



Monarch Tagging Recoveries

Annually each September, Quivira hosts an event called Monarch Mania.  Combining education and fun, the event focuses on butterflies, especially Monarchs.  During each event, visitors and staff combine to capture, tag, and release Monarchs.  Most years, a few of the tagged Monarchs are reported from their wintering grounds in Mexico.  Below are the results from the latest event:

Note:  if you attended a recent Monarch Mania event and helped capture Monarchs, check the lists below to see if one of "your" Monarchs was found in Mexico! 

Monarch Mania, 2016

Event Date:  17 September 2016

Number of Monarchs Tagged:  373 

Number of Tag Recoveries from Quivira Monarchs, 2016:  9

Tag Numbers recovered (with date and location from Mexico):

WGP701 - El Rosario, Mexico (3/1/17)

WGP704 - El Rosario, Mexico (3/1/17)

WGP776 - El Rosario, Mexico (3/1/17)

WGP784 - Sierra Chincua, Mexico (3/2/17)

WGP809 - Cerro Pelon, Mexico (2/21/17)

WGP832 - Cerro Pelon, Mexico (1/26/17)

WGP859 - El Rosario, Mexico (3/1/17)

WGP931 - Cerro Pelon, Mexico (1/26/17)

WGR083 - El Rosario, Mexico (3/1/17)

Monarch Mania, 2017

Event Date:  16 September 2017

Number of Monarchs tagged:  438

Number of tag recoveries from Mexico:  6

Tag numbers recovered (with date and location in Mexico):

XNN303 - El Rosaio, Mexico (2/20/18)

XNN318 - Sierra Chincua, Mexico (2/11/18)

XNN338 - Cerro Pelon, Mexico (12/4/17)

XNN355 - El Rosario, Mexico (2/20/18)

XNN379 - El Rosario, Mexico (2/20/18)

XNN387 - Sierra Chincua, Mexico (2/10/18)