It may have been a while since you’ve seen an influx of butterflies – especially monarch butterflies – in Oklahoma. After rough weather the last few years, plus threats on their habitat by things like climate change, pesticides and urban growth, butterflies have been making an appearance in fewer numbers. This year, they’re making a comeback and popping up across the state this summer.
Peak migration for monarchs is right around the corner: late September and early October are the best times to see butterflies. Don’t forget to report the monarchs you see in the coming weeks to Journey North via their website or app. Click here to learn more.
Check out our resources below on how to make the most of butterfly season in Oklahoma!
Where to see butterflies
Monarchs on the Mountain is a new festival celebrating Eastern Oklahoma’s role in the monarch butterfly migration. The festival takes place Sept. 24 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the pavilion area of the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area, 6850 S. Elwood Ave. in Tulsa.
Did you know I-35 is declared the “Monarch Highway“? The highway, which runs through several states, is along the main migratory path of monarch butterflies. In fact, earlier this summer, OKDOT opened a monarch weigh station, which includes flowers and plants that attract butterflies and encourage the growth of their habit. The transportation department mowed less this summer to protect butterflies’ favorite plants along highways. You can view the butterfly garden at the visitor center at I-35 and NE 122.
Oxley Nature Center is home to a monarch nursery and pollinator gardens a their facility in Tulsa, where each spring and summer, they plant milkweed and other favorite plants of the butterfly, raise them, educate the public and eventually release them into the wild to migrate. The center hosts monthly butterfly walks at 9:30 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month through October. You can also view a checklist of butterflies found in Mohawk Park for a perfect early fall activity!
Myriad Gardens in Oklahoma City is home to 15-acres of indoor and outdoor habitats for insects and animals alike! View butterflies within the conservatory or explore the outdoor gardens for free, which includes a children’s garden, dog park and more. Myriad Gardens is hosting a self-guided butterfly garden tour on Sunday, Sept. 25 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Click here for more information.
Monarchs in the Park is a annual festival on Saturday, Oct. 1 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in Blanchard, which includes demonstrations, gardens art, face painting, a butterfly plant sale, free seeds and the beautiful gardens teeming with many different butterflies. The festival even includes a Parade of Butterflies at 2 p.m. and encourages participants to dress as their favorite butterfly! Visit TravelOK.com for more information about Monarchs in the Park.
The Butterfly Garden at the OKC Zoo is the largest walk-through outdoor butterfly garden in the state and includes more than 15,000 plants that attract and sustain butterflies. Located southwest of the Noble Aquatic Center, the Butterfly Garden is the perfect place to view butterflies as they migrate through Oklahoma in the coming weeks. Visit the gardens on Sept. 24 for the Monarch Festival from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.!
Honor Heights Park Butterfly House and Gardens in Muskogee is open every day April through Columbus Day. In addition to their gardens, the Butterfly House is an open-air sanctuary for native butterflies and invites visitors to get an up-close-and-personal view of butterflies throughout their life stages. Learn more by clicking here.
Plant your own butterfly garden
Check out the following tips to create a butterfly oasis in your own backyard from our partners at the National Wildlife Organization:
Pick a Sunny Spot
Monarch butterflies feed on flower nectar from plants that grow in sunny areas. Ideally your butterfly garden should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
Prepare a Planting Bed
Clear grass and weeds and gently turn compacted clay soil by adding compost to loosen and enrich the soil and improve drainage. The more area you can devote to garden beds planted with nectar and host plants, the more success at attracting monarchs you’ll have. Try for a bed that is at least ten by ten feet, or multiple smaller beds. Turning your whole landscape into wildlife gardens is the best of all.
Start by planting the seeds you receive in your Butterfly Heroes garden starter kit, then add more plants from your local garden center. Plants native to your region provide the best habitat for monarchs and all wildlife. Be sure to request plants grown without chemical pesticides.
Plant Densely and Diversely
The more native habitat plants you add, the more butterflies and other wildlife you’ll attract. Planting in clusters will make it easier for wildlife to spot the plants that you’ve put out to attract them.
When you design your garden, make sure that something is blooming in spring, summer and fall to provide food for monarchs throughout their migration and breeding seasons.
Don’t Use Pesticides
Monarchs and other butterflies are insects and insecticides will kill them, both as winged adults as well as during their caterpillar phase. Practice organic gardening and rely on birds, toads and predatory insects to control pests. No need to spray!
Learn more about the types of butterflies and the plants that attract them at NWF.org.
Have you seen monarchs in your area this season? Post your photos on our Facebook page to be featured!