Monday, May 5, 2014

Monarch Butterflies on The Move

Monarch Butterfly

Every Fall, September to be exact, in The Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York you can look up and see a continuous marching, flying procession of Monarch Butterflies. They soar overhead in a perfect straight line, perfectly spaced, and they don't seem to end. "How do they know to do that?" trails through my head, and I just stare in wonder.  I think of my God and how incredible He is and creative to be able to make such beauty and impart such an intelligent dance to it's life. How do they know, again, I wonder?

 Experts call this migration: "Directional Flight".  "You'll know a migrating monarch if you see one that seems to be flying with a purpose, and traveling in one direction. This is called "directional flight." 'Every monarch was traveling in the same direction, as if they were following a road in the sky!' wrote a New York observer."Watch for Fall Monarch Butterflies

The Monarchs will fly south, many along the Eastern Seaboard and then follow the Gulf of Mexico "Those that reach the gulf of Mexico follow the coastline in a continuous stream. They continue in a southwest direction eventually reaching the overwintering site in the Transvolcanic Plateau of Mexico." The Migratory Behavior of the Monarch Butterfly  

Recently their numbers have dramatically dwindled. Scientists are trying to find a cause. Most likely it is a combination of factors from the habitat they go to in Mexico has dwindled in size from 50 square miles to 3 over years from deforestation (some of it from activity of illegal drug dealers), the arid conditions crossing Texas some years haven't helped, insecticides, and less Milk Weed- their food of choice.  

 The Washington Post in January talks about the problem: Monarch butterflies keep disappearing. Here’s why. Lincoln Brower in a 2012 paper broke down the reasons as (according to The Washington Post): 
"he cited three big reasons the populations are dwindling: Deforestation in Mexico, recent bouts of severe weather, and the growth of herbicide-based agriculture destroying crucial milkweed flora in the Midwest."

Masses of Monarch Butterflies overwinter in Mexico:

After overwintering in Michoacan, Mexico the Monarch starts to travel North again in the Spring. This site keeps track of sightings and this year announced their travel North on April 24th of this year: Monarch Butterfly News: May 1, 2014

Journey North, Monarch Butterfly keeps track of sightings around North America. Check their maps out!
An interactive map that plots the first sightings of Adult monarchs as they have been seen. These are the new generation with new bright wings. The old Monarchs were spotted a month ago in Texas with faded and some with ratty wings. It takes a month of warm weather to complete a growth cycle for Monarchs.

If you want to get involved (or grow milkweed) if you live in an area that hosts Monarchs (Colorado doesn't seem to be on the migration maps) you can check out this super website focused only on Monarch Butterflies: " offers information on how to tag a Monarch, raising milkweed, rearing Monarch caterpillars, and a database of all the Monarch tags recovered in Mexico, so those of us who tag can search and find if any of our butterflies made it home. " Texas Butterfly Ranch 

Another way to help is to donate to:Monarch Butterfly Fund: Conserving The Migration also this 
site has more great photographs!

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