I’ve seen several Monarch butterflies flying and imagine they’re on their journey south. One was tossed by the turbulence coming from fast moving cars and trucks as it made its way across Shier-Rings Road. I wonder how many roads this seemingly fragile insect will cross before it reaches its wintering grounds in Mexico. It’s miraculous that a butterfly completes this journey flying a few thousand miles.
There is a great NOVA http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/journey-butterflies.html special on the migration and destination of Monarchs. A particular scene with a Texas zoologist tugs at my heart strings. He is staring up into hundreds of migrating butterflies with overwhelming awe. I recall an experience with Monarchs that was pure elation and relate to the scientist’s emotion. We were riding our bicycles at a metro park in late summer. It was the end of a picture perfect day with blue skies and light winds, when we spotted Monarchs flying in an area. We peddled into a dream like scene as they flitted just overhead looking for places to roost for the night. Some already clung to branches clustering close enough to mimic orange, fall leaves on what was still a green leafed tree. It was breathtaking. It’s the only time I’ve experienced this and definitely a memory that sticks. There is something magical about butterflies and their airy flight.
Many insects migrate including some types of dragonfly, beetle, and aphid. Distance varies as they travel in search of food or a hibernation destination. The Monarch’s seems the most incredible of insect migrations to me. Their flight seems cumbersome and they’re not aerodynamic and capable of high speeds. However, in this amazing world they are well equipped.
Before migration Monarchs enter diapause. Diapause is something I’ve written about with chickadees and reptiles. Although it’s a state of dormancy, activity levels in this state can vary. Diapause in Monarchs keeps them in reproductive dormancy. It actually extends their life from two months to around seven ensuring they’ll reach winter grounds.
They’ll fly approximately fifty miles a day to reach their Mexico goal, relying heavily on their ability to soar and taking advantage of the best flying conditions. They face great adversity such as storms, roadways, and predators. They traverse a desert and the Sierra Madre Mountains. All of this capability is in an animal that weighs one fifth an ounce.
In the spring, Monarchs will once again reproduce. They will not fly the entire distance north but will reproduce with subsequent generations guaranteeing Ohio and beyond will once again see Monarchs. There are many scientists including citizen scientists that aide in Monarch Research. Visit Monarch Watch for more information. http://www.monarchwatch.org/index.html
Fall is a time of change! What changes are you seeing?