Monarch Refueling Stations

By Published On: October 12, 2023Categories: Nature

On a sunny day in early October, our place was swarming with beautiful Monarch butterflies. Of particular interest to them were the 10-ft tall clumps of Sawtooth Sunflower–towering shoots of bright yellow blossoms that serve as refueling pumps like a station off the interstate highway.

That’s what fall-blooming flowers do—refuel butterflies. Monarchs fan-out and spend the summer throughout the eastern two-thirds of the United States and southern Canada. After several generations, they begin to migrate southward to the Oyamel Fir forests of mountainous Central Mexico, massing together by the millions to spend the winter months.

A monarch butterfly born in the northern US or southern Canada must fly up to 2,800 miles to migrate to Michoacan, Mexico. That’s a long way for an animal that weighs an average of only one-half of a gram– half the weight of a small paper clip! A monarch butterfly is like a 4-inch-wide orange kite that must sail favorable winds when they are available. Cold days and rain will ground them. Each monarch must find their way to a specific, remote place it has never personally been–a marvel of nature right in our own backyard. For more information on monarch biology and migration, check out Monarch Joint Venture.org.

Monarchs are one of just a few migratory insect species. Fall-blooming flowers are critical for the energy- rich nectar they require to continue the trip south. Holland Wildflower Farm has wildflower seed mixes specifically designed for monarch butterflies, such as our Monarch Native Wildflower Mix—a rich selection of native-only species beneficial to Monarchs. Also, our Monarch Butterfly Garden Seed Mix, a more modestly priced version which includes some garden variety flower species that they use for the nectar. A more generalized pollinator mix is our Eastern Pollinator Mix.

You can do your bit to help the monarchs by planting a pollinator-friendly “refueling station” along their route.

Two Monarch Butterflies on flowers Monarch Butterflies