You know I have only seen about three monarch butterflies all year and yesterday afternoon I went out on our back deck…we have a large stand of butterfly bushes some standing eight to ten feet tall in a garden straight out from the deck about fifteen feet away. Next to the deck are smaller butterfly bushes and all of them are still blooming profusely. I sat down and suddenly noticed that the taller bushes were very active and a closer look revealed dozens of Monarchs. I couldn’t get a good shot of them because they were in the tops of the bushes and when I moved closer my view was obstructed by lower branches. Luckily as I sat there watching a couple came to the closer and lower bushes…I couldn’t get a shot of the large mass of them I wanted but I did get a half dozen shots of one.
“Unlike most other insects in temperate climates, Monarch butterflies cannot survive a long cold winter. Instead, they spend the winter in roosting spots. Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains travel to small groves of trees along the California coast. Those east of the Rocky Mountains fly farther south to the forests high in the mountains of Mexico. The monarch’s migration is driven by seasonal changes. Daylength and temperature changes influence the movement of the Monarch.
In all the world, no butterflies migrate like the Monarchs of North America. They travel much farther than all other tropical butterflies, up to three thousand miles. They are the only butterflies to make such a long, two way migration every year. Amazingly, they fly in masses to the same winter roosts, often to the exact same trees. Their migration is more the type we expect from birds or whales. However, unlike birds and whales, individuals only make the round-trip once. It is their children’s grandchildren that return south the following fall.
Another unsolved mystery is how Monarchs find the overwintering sites each year. Somehow they know their way, even though the butterflies returning to Mexico or California each fall are the great-great-grandchildren of the butterflies that left the previous spring. No one knows exactly how their homing system works; it is another of the many unanswered questions in the butterfly world.”
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