Monarch butterflies migrate through Western North Carolina

See extra orange in the trees this fall? It’s not just leaves — it’s a contingent of the ~500,000 monarch butterflies making their annual migration South.

Photo via @nansherryart

If you see extra orange in the trees this fall, know that it’s not just leaves. It’s actually a contingent of the ~500,000 monarch butterflies making their annual migration South — and it’s a wing-derful sight to behold.

Monarchs are one of the few insects that migrate to warmer climates. Every fall, these elegant insects flee their homes in the eastern United States + southern Canada and make an incredible 2,500-mile trek to Central America and California to ride out the winter. During that time, the monarchs hibernate for six to eight months in fir or eucalyptus trees before laying eggs and migrating back north in March.

Each red dot signifies a self-reported sighting of migrating monarchs. | Screen grab via Journey North

Orange you glad we’re mentioning this now? As of mid-September, the monarchs have already begun passing through Asheville and will continue for several weeks into October.

According to Explore Asheville, your best shot at observing these bivouacs (the moniker for a group) is along high-elevation mountain ridges, including:

  • Wagon Gap Road parking area (Milepost 412.2)
  • Pounding Mill Overlook (Milepost 413.2)
  • Cherry Cove Overlook (Milepost 415.7)
  • Black Balsam summit (Milepost 420.2)

Want to support the monarch’s migration? Cultivating pollinator-friendly plants such as milkweed, black-eyed susans, *and* coneflowers can help supply the resources + nutrition needed by butterflies to make the long haul.

Pro tip: You can also check out our guide to building a pollinator-friendly garden for more specific guidance.

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