Monarchs En Route to Mexico Stop in the 'Burgh

Fall weather is upon us and that means it's time for Monarch butterflies to high tail it to Mexico on their annual migration from our area. Pittsburgh's Convention Center is trying to help the butterflies along on their journeys by planting milkweed and other flower varieties. The Allegheny Front's Ashley Murray reports from downtown Pittsburgh.

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MURRAY: I'm here at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh with Mark Leahy, the general manager, and Jim Bonner of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. We're on this very large observation deck overlooking the Allegheny River and there are forty-four large planters here. Mark, what made the Convention Center get into the business of helping Monarch Butterflies travel to Mexico?

LEAHY: Our director of sales and marketing came across an article that talked about the declining habitat for monarch butterflies. The whole Pittsburgh area is on the migratory patterns and routes of these Monarch butterflies that leave Mexico, go up to Canada and swing back around and head south again, and so they need to eat along the way and we had these areas and let’s put them to good use. And, of course the big question has been, have you seen any butterflies?

MURRAY: So have you seen any butterflies?

LEAHY: Oh we have indeed. In fact, we knew that September would be the time for them, and one of our staff was up here, and she quickly took a picture of it and emailed it to everybody. I felt like a proud parent.

BONNER: And here is a full-grown adult Monarch caterpillar. This guy here is about two inches long and is probably only days away from going into a chrysalis. So, when this one comes out in anywhere from 10 days to two weeks from now, that's most likely the one that will head south towards Mexico on the migration.

MURRAY: Do you think that he will make it to Mexico?

BONNER: Hard to say odds on any particular one, but we'd love to root for this one since it's our first one, and he looks like a fighter, so I'll put some money on him. He’s just chowing down there. He doesn't really mind so much that he's kind of being lifted up by me. He's just continuing to eat away on the plant. Milkweed, which is the key plant to this is sometimes a much maligned plant, so a lot of it was removed. But, the key thing to it is it is the only plant that the caterpillars can eat and consume, and so without milkweed, you can't have Monarch butterflies.

MURRAY: If listeners see a Monarch fluttering past them, is it safe to say that that Monarch is migrating?

BONNER: Most likely they are seeing ones that are on their path south.

OUTRO: You can find more information about planting a Monarch Butterfly Waystation at alleghenyfront.org.