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Thousands of monarch butterflies flock to Point Pelee en-route to Mexico

Tens of thousands of butterflies are flying through Canada's most southern point and resting along the shore of Lake Erie as they migrate toward Mexico this month.

Visitors can expect to see these monarch clusters through mid-October

Monarch butterflies appear to grow on trees at Point Pelee National Park. They are resting at Canada's most southern point before migrating to Mexico. (Submitted by Darlene Burgess)

Tens of thousands of butterflies are flying through Canada's most southern point and resting along the shore of Lake Erie as they migrate toward Mexico this month.

The shoreline of Point Pelee National Park acts as an ideal resting spot for the colourful butterflies as they prepare for the roughly 40 kilometre flight across Lake Erie and into Ohio, with only a few islands in between. 

"Certainly within the park we've seen some nice upward trends in the last couple of years," said Andrew Laforet, the interpretation coordinator for Point Pelee National Park. 

He said this is prime time to watch the butterflies cluster along the shoreline in the region. 

The funnel system

"Rather than crossing the lake they'll follow the land out as far as it will take them until they have no choice," said Laforet. 

"They're waiting for the right condition to cross."

These monarch butterflies are on their way to Mexico but most make a stop in Point Pelee National Park along the way. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Laforet said it's hard to predict when butterflies will head across the Lake or decide to stick around for a few hours, but he did offer some tips:

  • Windy days with rain usually force the butterflies to hunker down, making it a perfect time to snap photos (just remember to keep the camera dry).
  • Hot, sunny days tend to be when the butterflies decide to brave the flight across the water.
  • Early mornings and sunsets are when clusters are most likely to appear.
A few dozen people made the trip to the tip of Point Pelee National Park to take in the butterfly clusters. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

How do you count thousands of butterflies?

The park has a great way of conducting an unofficial count of the butterflies with the help of Darlene Burgess, a butterfly expert who lives in the area.

"It's a little difficult," said Laforet.

"She'll count a certain area and say 'Okay I've got ten in this area, it takes up this amount of space — so this group is probably about two or three hundred, I've got several of those groups.' So eventually she can get to a place where she can say 'Okay we have roughly 10,000 monarchs down here in these various areas.'"

The migration will continue into mid-October, said Burgess. (Submitted by Darlene Burgess)
Interpretation coordinator Andrew Laforet checks-in on a monarch rearing container at Point Pelee National Park. (Chris Ensing/CBC)
Monarch butterflies rest in Ontario before the long trek to Mexico. (Submitted by Darlene Burgess)
The butterflies wait for the right weather before they cross Lake Erie. (Submitted by Darlene Burgess)
A cluster of butterflies on a tree at Point Pelee National Park. (Submitted by Darlene Burgess)

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