Notes from Nature: Spotting Migrating Monarch Butterflies at Kiawah River

When spring returns to the Lowcountry each year, it brings with it an abundance of sunshine, warm coastal breezes and the bright green hue of the maritime forest canopy. As wildflowers bloom and blanket Kiawah River’s meadows during this time of the year, some long-awaited visitors are hard at work making their annual return to the Lowcountry.

Every March, thousands of Monarch butterflies flutter up the East Coast from Mexico to the Northeast, following their southern migration to escape winter’s chilling temperatures. Throughout this journey, the butterflies search for sources of nectar for food and budding milkweed as a resting place to lay their eggs.

Known for their eye-catching orange color with black vein-like markings, Monarch butterflies cover thousands of miles during their northward journey, flying their way from Mexico through Texas, the Gulf Coast and Florida, eventually passing through the Lowcountry.

One of the world’s most spectacular natural phenomena, the annual migration is vital to the species’ survival. Monarch butterflies only have an average lifespan of about four weeks, and as a result, no one butterfly is able to make the entire trip. In fact, at least four generations of Monarch butterflies are involved in the migration from start to finish.

As we make our way into the spring season, there have already been multiple reports of butterfly sightings across Texas as the hungry pollinators begin their trek up the coast. By the time the Monarchs arrive in the Carolinas in May, the second-generation will already be leading the kaleidoscope northward.

Located on one of Charleston’s sea islands, Kiawah River’s 2,000 acres include maritime forests and glittering marsh flats – an ideal resting place on the Monarchs’ journey. When they arrive each year, our residents can find the butterflies enjoying the sweet nectar of narrow-leaved ironweed, milkweed and goldenrods during the critters’ short visit to the Lowcountry.

Follow the Monarch butterfly migration and be sure to track your sightings online here. According to these reports, we expect to welcome these delicate creatures at Kiawah River in the next few weeks!