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Monarch butterflies stick around late into Fall

You might see a few more butterflies than usual this time of year.

Posted: Oct. 17, 2017 12:13 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - You might see a few more butterflies than usual this time of year.

It's (usually) around this time of year that monarch butterflies head for warmer temps.

Monarch butterfly enthusiast and caregiver Laura Mitchell began a life-long obsession with butterflies as a young child and helps raise monarchs every season.

Mitchell says they've been late to mature this season, she found several monarch eggs just a few weeks ago.

"I started plucking leaves off and by the time I got finished I had 21 that particular day," said Mitchell.

The warmer fall days may play a factor.

"I think they get a little confused in that it's nice and warm," offered Mitchell. "I don't think most of them have stayed, but I think a few of the stragglers stay. There's also some thought that when they're locally raised they don't all necessarily migrate."

One of the main reasons they come to the valley is the milkweed - which they thrive on during and after the caterpillar stage.

Biologist Peter Coppinger says they tend to go south of the border to get their fix in the winter.

"If they stayed up here there would be no food, they'd freeze to death," urged Coppinger. "It's not just anywhere in Mexico - it's a particular stand of trees in certain mountain ranges right in central Mexico."

It turns out that there are two things the butterflies use to help guide their flight to warmer weather.

"Their eyes detect the sunlight that their brain processes and then their antennaes are what monitor basically the time of day," explained Coppinger. "So they know where the sun is at a particular time of day so they know where to head in the same correct direction."

Ways you can help keep monarch populations up are by planting and protecting milkweed.

Do that and you may just see some colorful butterfly friends in your garden this time next year.

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