Monarchs heading to Mexico for winter

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - It's a journey that takes thousands of miles to get the monarch butterflies between Ohio and Mexico. It's an astounding journey, and we're right in the middle of it here in northwest Ohio.

Candy Sarikonda says monarchs love the heat. So it makes sense that they fly south for the winter, and why, as they pass through Ohio, they fly low in the morning, high up at noon, and near the ground again in the evening.

"You'll see these monarchs coming down, usually around 4 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon. You'll see them feeding from those nectar plants and fattening up for the winter. And then they're head for their roost to spend the night."

So that's how they spend their time flying. But there's more to the trip.

"During that two-and-a-half months, they're going to be stopping and nectaring repeatedly, fattening up the whole way along."

That fat will help them survive the winter, because where the butterflies go, there isn't enough milkweed to sustain the hundreds of thousands of them. In Mexico, they survive on water.

But experts still have unanswered questions.

"How do they end up in the same place every year?” Sarikonda asks. “When you think about it, you have millions of monarchs that are going down to Mexico, to a small area in the volcanic mountains, just 60 miles northwest of Mexico City."

It's also not clear how many of the butterflies actually make it to Mexico. But researchers are doing what they can to keep track.

Ryan Walsh, Conservation Specialist at the Toledo Zoo explains the use of tagging monarchs. He says, "We use Monarch Watch tags, which are biodegradable tags that we put on the monarchs. Believe it or not, it has a website, three numbers and four letters that allow us to identify each individual."

See below for the full interviews with Candy and Ryan.

For more information about tracking monarchs, click here.