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14 Sep

What weighs as much as a paperclip and has fragile wings that carry it thousands of miles on its annual migration journey?  If you answered a monarch butterfly, you are correct!  But if you answered the “super generation” of the monarch butterfly, then you must have read the recent article on Birds and Blooms website entitled Diary of Monarch Migration.  By reading on, I will share with you some highlights from that article. 

September is the time of year this so called super generation is equipped at birth to make the  long journey to central Mexico.  This generation has no interest in mating just yet.  Rather, it’s their natural instinct to fly fast and fly far…very far! 

And fly they do!  They often fly as high as a mile in the sky where winds are stronger.  Their wings are carried along easily on air currents and they travel nearly one hundred miles every day.  Monarchs on migration roost in trees at night and feed on nectar from late blooming wildflowers along the way before they move on each day.

Within two months of leaving their birthplace, millions of monarchs cross the border into Mexico.  I can just imagine what an awesome sight that would be to see clouds of orange and black against a cloudless blue sky!   Instinct once again brings together millions of them to mountains that are 10,000 feet above sea level to settle on oyamel fir trees.  The weight of the monarchs in mass sometimes even cracks the branches as their bodies move into hibernation mode. 

Within three and one-half months and with longer and warmer days the monarchs begin to move.  As if a bell sounded to awaken them, millions suddenly begin to flap their wings creating an incredibly loud noise.  They leave the trees in a flurry of orange and black  clouds and head north, another sight to behold I’m sure. 

By the time they reach Texas in mid-March, they are finally ready to mate.  They feed on spring wildflowers and seek newly sprouted milkweed on which to lay their eggs.  Once that is completed, the super generation’has completed its mission in life. Their offspring will complete the flight north and begin the cycle for future generations of monarchs.  When fall comes around, another super generation will emerge and the cycle begins all over again.  What an amazing journey!

My next blog, How to Help Struggling Monarchs, will provide you some ideas on what you can do to help this vital pollinator thrive in a world where the only source of food for their larvae, milkweed, has drastically diminished. 

 

 

 

 

 


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