Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Racing a Monarch

This week I am in New Jersey for a few days, 500 miles away from the Red House.  Here I've seen a Monarch butterfly in the garden, resting and nectaring on her way down to Mexico for the winter.  

Monarch butterfly on Coneflower
Five days after spotting the Monarch I will be going back home, and I wonder, who will make it down to North Carolina first, me or the butterfly?

  • Monarch butterflies usually travel between 50 to 100 miles per day.  The average is about 80 miles (129 km) per day.  
  • The farthest a Monarch has traveled in one day on record is 265 miles (426 km).

265 miles in one day?!  This Monarch looks tired just thinking about flying that far!
  • Monarchs travel at around 12 mph (19kmh), but can fly at speeds up to 30mph (48kmh) or even much faster with a tail wind.  
  • Glider pilots have recorded these butterflies flying as high as 11,000 feet (3350m) up in the air.  

  • My airplane has a cruising speed at around 400mph (645kmh).
  • The airplane has a maximum cruising altitude of 25,000ft (7,600m).
  • Flight time to NC is under 2 hours.  

I wish I was going on this plane!
picture source: Wikipedia

So with a 5 day head start, could the Monarch butterfly end up at the Red House Garden first?

Well, the butterfly would have to travel an average of 100 miles per day to get there before me, which is theoretically doable...
Ready..... Set..... Go!

See you at the Red House Garden?

Want to join in tracking the Monarch butterfly fall migration?  
Report your sightings of Monarchs at the Monarch Butterfly Journey North website!


  1. My garden is ready (milkweed is standing alert) and we are waiting to welcome the monarchs! Safe travels back home and hope the Monarch will be there waiting for you!

  2. And you'll both be singing --- carolina here I come--- There's me showing my age again.

  3. Hope you are having a good time in NJ and that you see your Monarch on the way back. They are still up here though. I have been seeing quite a few.

  4. I hope you see Monarchs when you return home. That will make you wonder if it's the same one! Then be sure to send it down here! :)

  5. Aren't these creatures amazing? I am fascinated by Monarchs, especially their internal GPS that leads them to migrate every fall and spring. Your photos are beautiful...and I'm pretty impressed by your math, Indie:)

  6. I'll be on the lookout. I think they're still here, too. It has been so hot--90 again tomorrow!

  7. Monarchs are beautiful. 80 miles is a lot to travel in one day. I have friends who take cycling trips and 40 to 50 miles is a lot for one day. How amazing that monarchs can travel so far.

  8. Indie, the Monarch butterfly is very colorful and picturesque.

  9. Beautiful photographs, beautiful butterfly, I like to admire so beautiful views. I am greeting

  10. Enjoy your trip and I hop you see many flowers able to feed Monarchs when you are there.

  11. Lots of monarchs still here due to the hot weather we are still experiencing...our monarchs stay here until Oct actually so it may be a while...how lucky you will see them as they leave me...I hope they do well...low numbers are predicted due to drought...

  12. Beautiful shots, and so much information to ponder...I do wonder who would make it first.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  13. Thanks for sharing such a fun link. This post brought a smile to my face... you must be a woman after my own heart. I sense you get as excited about Monarchs as I do. Great Post!

  14. I think they are such fascinating creatures. It's amazing how far they can fly and how their great-great grandchildren somehow know how to go back to the same exact location for the winter!
    I'm back in NC now and have posted an update on the monarch and caterpillars in my garden - thankfully they've found my milkweed!


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