From Minnesota to Mexico: How do monarchs know where and when to go?

In the Oyamel forest
In this 2008 file photo, monarch butterflies gather in the Oyamel forest of El Rosario sanctuary in Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico. Millions of monarch butterflies establish themselves every year in this part of Mexico after crossing through the U.S. from Canada.
Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images 2008

Monarch butterflies, Minnesota’s official state butterfly, spend their summer throughout the Midwest and migrate to Mexico in the fall to avoid the freezing winters.

By now, most have already embarked on their more than 2,500-mile journey south to the sacred pine forests of central Mexico where they will remain in a state of semi-hibernation until spring, clustering onto the trunks and tree limbs of pines, firs, oaks and cedars — the ideal microclimate for their winter survival. 

Dr. Karen Oberhauser, director of the UW-Madison Arboretum, joined Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer to talk about their journey. Plus, a story about citizen scientists by Melissa Townsend, senior producer at MPR News.

 Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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