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Monarch Butterfly Festival

Festival Mission: “Create awareness and action to conserve habitat for pollinators, especially the monarch butterfly!”

You don’t need to be a butterfly expert or have fancy equipment to witness this phenomenon. You just need to stand quietly by a blooming saltbush, with its “cotton candy” fragrance, and watch the hungry traveling monarchs feed! This is a positive, primary experience with wildlife!! - Robin Will

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North Florida residents and visitors will experience the magic of the monarch butterfly migration at the St. Marks NWR’s 28th Annual Monarch Butterfly Festival on Saturday, October 26, 2019 from 10 am – 4 pm.

The festival is timed for the arrival of migrating monarch butterflies, making their 2,000 mile trip from the northern American boundary to the mountains of central Mexico.  This amazing phenomenon passes through the Gulf coast of Florida beginning about the third week in October, and may be observed along the coast at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.   

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Unlike other animal migrations, each monarch butterfly is on its own.  There is no parent to follow.  Its annual journey is a complex, inherited behavior pattern, not a learned process.  Migrating monarchs are usually those who hatch out in late summer.   Monarchs have a 4-inch wingspan and weigh 1 gram (1/5 the weight of a penny).  They travel with cold fronts, often at speeds of 10 – 30 mph, covering 80 miles a day.  They may fly at 3,000 feet and higher and will “fall out” on the goldenrod and saltbush, blooming down at the St. Marks lighthouse, and feed hungrily for their long trip.  

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Volunteers have been tagging the St. Marks monarchs for many years, hoping a few would complete the trip to Mexico.  Visitors will be able to watch the tagging process at  the Monarch Butterfly Festival on Saturday, October 26, 2019, from 10 am – 4 pm.  The event is filled with the smiles of folks of all ages charting their own “migration,” making butterfly crafts, talking with monarch butterfly researchers and other exhibitors.  In addition, visitors will learn about landscaping to help all pollinators, enjoy munching on Bradley’s sausage dogs, watch tagged monarchs take flight, view wildlife on wagon tours, listen to great music and much more!   

Join us to observe the miracle of migrating monarch butterflies in person. 

Earlier Event: September 28
National Public Lands Day