The Maryland Department of Natural Resources invites everyone to Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary to celebrate the fall migration of the monarch butterfly on Sept. 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Adults and kids of all ages are encouraged to take part in a variety of activities, including tagging and releasing monarchs, a Scales & Tales display, hayrides, guided hikes and tours, crafts — and new for 2021, a monarch costume contest, and a native plant sale.
In the Northeast, monarchs in southeastern Canada begin to migrate south in early fall (September and October). Many of these individuals will fly all the way to central Mexico where they overwinter in a single mountain forest in central Mexico. During this time, the monarchs will gather in oyamel fir trees.
In February and March, the overwintering monarchs will begin their journey north and east, laying eggs on milkweed as they go. The eggs that hatch into larvae are the next generation. The young caterpillars feed on milkweed, which causes them to become distasteful to predators.
After pupating and emerging as new adults, these butterflies will continue the push north. Several more generations will follow, all continuing the journey north, until the last generation reaches Canada and continues the cycle all over again.
Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary is a 1,900-acre natural resource management area in Prince George’s County.