Get Out & Play: Monarch migration

Carol EvansFeature

The monarch butterflies have begun their yearly migration through East Tennessee. This beautiful insect is admired for its flamboyant orange and black coloring and unique migration cycle. Not only are they the only butterfly species known to migrate south for the winter, they are very efficient travelers. Monarchs travel up to 3,000 miles, covering 100 miles per day and flying as high as 10,000 feet to reach the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico. Lucky for us, we can catch a glimpse of these beauties during their layover in Tennessee.

A butterfly hunter at Seven Islands State Birding Park

You don’t have to be a migration expert to experience the spectacular display of these flutter-bys. Whether your activity of choice is running through a field with a butterfly net or if you are a butterfly enthusiast yearning to catch an up-close glimpse, there are several ways to experience these beautiful insects.

The Tennessee Butterfly Monitoring Network is hosting a Monarch Tagging and Butterfly Foray this Saturday (9/15) at Seven Islands Birding Park. Enjoy the wonder and beauty of flying flowers as you search the park for monarchs and other butterflies. The activity will kick off with a brief explanation of the monarch migration followed by a short, one-to-two-mile hike through the park to find, catch and tag butterflies.

The Big Bug Safari at Ijams Nature Center makes for a great Sunday afternoon of fun for kids and parents, too. Naturalist Stephen Lyn Bales leads the search with sweep nets to catch the butterflies of late summer.

Travel a little further to the mountains and join the Harvey Broome Group in Cades Cove for a multi-year tradition of monitoring and tagging the monarchs. If you can’t make it this weekend, there are several more dates offered throughout September and October.

Look for more chances to experience wildlife and enjoy other outdoor recreation events at

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