The Great Migration
Its time for the great monarch migration! More than 500,000 monarchs travel anywhere from 1,200 to 2,800 miles each year to Mexico, or to the coast of California. There, they fly to the mountains, attach to a tree, and overwinter. Then, next spring, they will lay the first generation to start the travel back north.
Monarch Butterfly Fall Migration Patterns. Base map source: USGS National Atlas
Did you know that monarch butterflies have up to 5 generations in one year? The first four generations will only live for about a month. The fifth will live for up to eight! The first generation is hatched in Mexico where they prepare to make part of the flight back to the Northern US and Canada. It will take about four generations for monarchs to fully reach Canada. The adult butterfly will lay eggs, those eggs hatch, the caterpillar will cocoon and metamorphosize into a butterfly. That adult will the complete the next leg of the journey north. The fifth generation will travel all the way back south for winter.
Unfortunately, for the last decade, scientist have seen a decline in the monarch population. Many believe this is due to a decline in their host plant, milkweed. As many of you probably know, monarchs will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants; milkweed also provides their caterpillars with food. With more herbicides being used, and rural development on a rise, breeding grounds are becoming sparse.
So what can you do to help? One thing is to plant a butterfly garden. There are many websites that provide a garden layout with all the best plants for butterflies. Also, just plant milkweed around your yard. There are some great tips online for harvesting natural milkweed seeds. Spread the word; encourage others to protect and plant milkweed!
Visit https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/Monarch_Butterfly/do/index.shtml to find out more ways to help save monarchs.
By: Cheyanne Bartholomew