New Monarch Overwintering Site?

Fargo, North Dakota is famous for its long cold winters. The high temperature forecast for next Tuesday is -3 degrees (F). Fargo is far away from Sierra Chincua, Mexico, the famous overwintering site of the Monarch butterflies where the winter temperatures stay above freezing and snow is rare. The exiting news from Fargo (as reported by Keith Corliss on his blog (latest post) is the story of one lonely male butterfly who refused to fly south for the winter.

On October 15, in the face an approaching freeze, Keith’s friend Dave took pity on the Monarch and brought it indoors. In the summer, Monarch Butterflies live only a few weeks as adults. However, the overwintering butterflies live several months. In nature, the overwintering butterflies lower their metabolism and food intake in their cool overwintering site and wait for spring to mate and lay eggs in the Gulf of Mexico area.

The Monarchs will start to move north in February and lay eggs on the newly emerging milkweed plants in the Southern Gulf states of the US. The adults that emerge will move farther north and produce the next generation. Some of the adults of that second generation may return to Fargo in late spring or early summer.

Dave named his Monarch friend, “Flutter” after its erratic flight. Flutter lives on a diet of apple juice and will feed on droplets suspended from Dave’s finger. Flutter is still alive and in good health (other than a few nicks in the wings) three months (and counting) after moving in with his BFF, Dave. Will Flutter survive to greet the Monarchs that return in late spring? We will have to read the blog to find out. If Flutter is successful, have the Monarchs found a new overwintering site in Fargo, ND?

Flutter the Butterfly Feeding on a Drop of Apple Juice
Photo: Dave Samson

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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18 Responses to New Monarch Overwintering Site?

  1. Kelly McNutt says:

    This blog grasped my attention the most because I am extremely interested in Monarch butterflies and they’re uniqueness in life. I think it is great that Dave is now taking care of his new friend “Flutter” by feeding it indoors and keeping it in good health. The most interesting thing to me about this blog is that monarchs travel in packs and move around together. It is fascinating that their metabolism changes due to weather conditions and that they lower their eating habits. Also, I find it interesting that they do not mate until around spring. Hopefully Dave can get Flutter back to the rest of the Monarch butterflies in the spring.

  2. Kalee Coulter says:

    This article caught my attention, because I am very interested in butterflies. My sister and I use to do something very similar to this we would free the butterflies from my mom’s greenhouse. We were hoping to get them out of the really hot place and also hoping that they wouldn’t die in there. I think it is really good what Dave did to keep his he butterfly friend, “Flutter”. I think that it was great that he is trying to get him back to good health and hoping to keep him alive until the Monarch butterflies come back in the summer time. I really thought that it was interesting that Monarch butterflies travel south for the winter. I never knew that and I also think that it is really interesting that they travel in groups not by themselves.

  3. Jason Jasicki says:

    That’s so amazing that the little butterfly, Flutter, was able to survive with his new “BFF.” I was intrigued when I read the title, and the little story that followed was sweet. I certainly hope the little guy can see his butterfly buddies come back after the season. Not knowing much about butterflies or their diet, I didn’t know they could survive on apple juice, let alone on a few drops a day. While it is great that Flutter was able to live with Dave, I highly doubt that this will start a new trend in butterflies for living with humans indoors. But you never know I suppose… someone could really be into the bugs and really get a kick out of living with them!

  4. Alex Mudge says:

    Wow, I didnt know Monarchs lived all the way up in Fargo. Lucky for “Flutter” he found Dave. Its interesting that Flutter didnt leave for Mexico. I would assume migrating would be an obvious survival instinct, especially as it becomes colder and colder. Makes me wonder if other insects or animals often decide not to migrate for whatever reason. It is also surprising that Flutter lives off of only apple juice and that he drinks it off of Dave’s finger. Maybe Butterflys are man’s new best friend. I have actually seen video of Monarchs in Mexico on Discovery Channels show, Life. Check it out:

  5. Katrina Collinge says:

    When I think about butterflies, I have always assumed that they are much like birds, in that they “fly south for the winter”. Before reading this post, I never would have guessed that butterflies could and do live in places that have winter conditions. The story of Dave and “Flutter” really changed my perspective on butterflies. It’s interesting to note that a butterfly could be kept as a pet of some sorts. From my basic knowledge of butterflies, I always presumed that they could not be kept indoors for any period of time. After reading this post, I feel more informed about Monarch butterflies and hope to read more about them in the future.

  6. Carrie Layton says:

    I enjoyed the story of Dave and Flutter. It’s really nice that Dave chose to take Flutter in, in order for Flutter to survive the winter. It’s interesting that Flutter is living off of apple juice alone, but I guess it makes sense because they normally drink nectar anyway. Apple juice seems similar enough for Flutter to live off of. Though Flutter may survive the winter to see his butterfly friends again in spring, I don’t think this will become a trend for these Monarch butterflies. The great majority of these butterflies have probably always migrated south due to natural instinct, and they most likely will not attempt to stay year round just because of this one butterfly named Flutter.

  7. Erin Meyer says:

    This was a cute story. I would like to think I would do the same if I was in that situation. I wonder what other types of liquids a butterfly could live off of? I think Flutter will survive to see his friends. I do not think that many other butterflies will continue this trend. I think the butterflies’ instincts will continue to dictate their migratory patterns.

  8. Melissa Mastey says:

    I found this post to be heartwarming. I love the fact that the butterfly bonded with a human whereas when you try to touch them in nature they fly away. I also wonder why this little butterfly decided not to fly south, but I guess we will never know. I believe this may just be a one time thing unless he just happens to run across a butterfly doing the same thing next winter.

  9. Hannah Woodward says:

    It’s interesting that “Flutter” refused to leave with the rest of the Monarchs. I wonder if some butterflies do this every year and people just don’t notice? It is also interesting to learn where the Monarchs migrate to in the winter and where they fly back to in the summer. I’ve never really thought about butterflies migrating before. I look forward to finding out if other butterflies stay behind in the future.

  10. Kayla Templin says:

    I decided to read this blog post because I love Monarch butterflies, well butterflies in general, but Monarch’s are so beautiful. This is story is so interesting to me, because I would have never expected a butterfly to be almost like a house pet. This man Dave is doing an awesome thing to help save this one Monarch butterfly and I believe/hope his new BFF, Flutter, will survive to see the spring and summer months.

  11. Tayler Felix says:

    For a man to have consideration and the knowledge to take care of a butterfly is so thoughtful. He goes out of his way to make sure that this butterfly is able to survive and able to reunite with its colony.

  12. Rachel Davis says:

    I love that Dave ‘adopted’ a Monarch butterfly! Typically we only think about adopting or saving dogs, cats, or other similar pets but this post opens our minds to other fauna that need just as much care and attention. Maybe this trend will catch on and we can adopt other insects that need help. Bumble bee anyone?

  13. Pawel Poziomski says:

    This article caught my attention, because the story of the Monarch Butterfly is very interesting. I am still wondering why this Monarch refused to go with the other butterflies. Dave did a great job by taking care of this Monarch. Hopefully the Monarch will survive the winter with Dave, and will join the colony in the summer.

  14. Marybeth Pickens says:

    I think it is amazing that insects can change so drastically to adapt to their surroundings. It is awesome to know that power that these little creatures can have, like lowering their metabolisms and food intake. It is also neat to hear that this beautiful butterfly, Flutter, has survived for 3 months in doors, seeing as most adult Monarch butterflies only live for just a few days and that overwintering butterflies live only several months. It is like he is Dave’s pet which makes me intrigued. I never thought of butterflies as pets before this blog, but I am excited to know they are capable of being such.

  15. Muting Wang says:

    The article really attracts me because the monarch butterfly wasn’t a new species to me,and I also knew that each year they would no doubt fly to the southern parts like Mexico for overwinterring.The most interesting thing is that ‘Flutter’ refused to accompany his colleagues, although such a phenomena wasn’t strange in insects’ world.I still feel excited that Flutter was adopted by Dave, not as pet,but BFF!! I’m really looking forward Flutter can survive till the summer comes!

  16. Pingback: Update on Flutter | Living With Insects Blog

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  18. Pingback: A Little Help From Their Friends | Living With Insects Blog

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