Ben here with the Friday edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!

Ben here with the Friday edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!

Ben here with the Friday edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!

Things are buzzing at the VMNH Jim Tobin Monarch Waystation! There are a ton of pollinators visiting the garden, along with plenty of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) like the one seen in the upper left corner of this photo!

The waystation provides an excellent resource for monarch butterflies migrating south for the winter. The monarchs that occur east of the Rocky Mountains have quite a journey ahead of them; they must migrate south to the sanctuaries found at the Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve in the Mexican state of Michoacán (they also overwinter in certain parts of Florida and Cuba).

This migration begins in late August in the northernmost parts of the monarch's range, and it's believed that a few factors trigger the migration, including aging larval host plants, shorter days, cooler temperatures, and even the changing angle of light coming from the sun. Remarkably, even monarchs raised in captivity will migrate south when the timing is right (although it's believed that captive-raised monarchs have a smaller chance of successfully migrating than their wild counterparts).

Unfortunately, monarch numbers are declining, although the situation isn't quite as dire as you may have been led to believe and we're definitely not in danger of the monarch butterfly going extinct any time soon. However, habitat loss at roosting sites, car strikes along migration routes, and other factors make for a dangerous journey for these butterflies.

If you'd like to see a monarch butterfly yourself, keep your eyes peeled when you're out and about; I've been seeing a bunch of them on the wing just lately. And of course, you can greatly increase your chances of spotting one by swinging by VMNH and visiting the Jim Tobin Monarch Waystation!

ABOUT #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends. This series of posts is made possible thanks to the support of VMNH Corporate Partner Carter Bank & Trust (

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

map of Virginia and surrounding areas

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