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Monarch Migration, the Journey South
September 20, 2010

We approach the first day of Autumn later this week and hummers are still hanging around.

On average, September 24 is my last day for hummers, but for now I will continue to enjoy them.

It has felt like fall here in Michigan for most of September.

Yep, well below normal temperatures around here, though today promises to hit the low 80's (to little to late).

We had some well needed rain this past week.

Now this is better late than never.

My annuals are still looking good and a couple of hummingbirds are still hanging around as well.

Remember to keep your hummer feeders clean and filled and don't be in such a hurry to pull up flowers.

Still, it would've been nice to have some warmth.

The leaf lettuce is thriving while other veggies are slow to ripen or grow.

Jan Zimmer from Blue Mounds, Iowa County, Wisconsin (southern Wisconsin),

Sent me a couple of pictures of a Black-capped chickadee drinking from one of her hummingbird feeder.

Jan says this little fella is a regular visitor and will keep here feeder up until it turns to ice.

Jan, it sounds like your little fella is now addicted to sugar water or at least enjoys a sweet treat.

Some folks keep heat lamps near their feeders to keep them from freezing.

Thank you for sharing, I have never seen a chickadee visit a hummer feeder before.

I love chickadees.

Off the beaten path.

MacGyver does have a first name


Don Fishback of Wabash County, Indiana and Beverly Hawkins of Kansas, both helped with MacGyver's first name.

"Angus," .............................. "Angus MacGyver"

Don sent me this tidbit as well.

In the last series in 1992, in the episode "Good Knight, McGyver", his first name was revealed to be the same as an ancestor called Angus.

Despite expressing a dislike for this name, he still passes it on to his son".

We all now know, why he was referred to as Mac or MacGyver.

Thanks again, you readers here are truly the best.

And now you know the rest of the story.

(Today's positive thought is also a MacGyver quote.)

Okay, back to business.

With the onslaught of Autumn, we think of preparing our yards and gardens for winter.

We also think of birds migrating.

We are also blessed with one of "Nature's" most unique and spectacular migrations.

A migration like no other in the insect world.

Of course, that is the 'Epic Journey South' of the Monarch Butterfly.

No other insect or for that matter creature alive is known to have a migration journey (north and south) like the Monarch butterfly.

True, juvenile hummingbirds make the trip south without experience or assistance, but survivors make the trip north and repeat the feat.

A Monarch makes the trip south but never returns.

Monarch Migration, the Epic Journey Begins.


Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus)

The monarch is the most recognizable of butterflies to most people and it is one of the largest, with a wingspan of up to 4 inches across.

It is the only butterfly that makes an annual migration both north and south like the birds.

So what is it that makes this butterfly so intriguing to all of us?

Does it have something do with all the memories that we had with this visitor in our gardens along with its striking brilliant orange and black wings?

They are difficult to miss when they are floating on the wind through the flowers.

They are also known as one of the milkweed butterflies, as their sole source of food is the plants in the milkweed family (host plants) when in its larval stage.

You may want to read more on monarchs and their life cycles .

There are very few predators that attack this butterfly as it is foul-tasting and poisonous due to the presence of cartenolide aglycones in their bodies.

This substance is obtained from the milkweed plants when the caterpillar initially consumed its leaves before the chrysalis stage.

Birds try to feed on it and find that it is not to their liking.

We all enjoy the presence of butterflies in our gardens and try to find all sorts of plants to attract them into our environment.

It is peaceful to see the many different types going from one plant to the other with no care in the world, however it is their winter activity that sets them apart.

The Monarch Migrates South.

Migration may not seem all that amazing to us as we see it in many different bird populations.

But this little delicate butterfly has to migrate up to 2,500 miles to its wintering place in Mexico.

All monarchs west of the Rockies migrate to southern California, mostly in the Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz areas.

Virtually all monarchs east of the Rockies migrate to the Mexican states of Michoacon and Mexico.

The migration itself can take up to two months, longer than most of their adult life spans.

But it is the monarch that is born late in summer and early fall that does not reproduce right away and can live up to seven months.

Once they make it to their winter destination, they lay their eggs in February and March before passing on.

It is the new offspring that make the trek back north.

This migration is still a mystery today for many scientists as the butterflies that migrate south are never the same ones that head back north.


Even though none of them ever make a round trip migration, they still know the exact migratory path to take on their return.

It is the God given trait they are born with that guides them in the right path in their circle of life.

There are many monarchs now that are gearing up to make this amazing migratory trek south within the month.

When you see them in the garden, this week or the next, try and put yourself in their place for a moment.

Now, do you wonder what it would be like to be so small and delicate, yet have the endurance to fly nearly 2,500 miles to over-winter in a southern location.

On any given year, an estimated one billion Monarchs may start the migration south.

About 20% or 200,000,000 make it.

Still fewer survive the winter.

Those aren't great odds.

Still, those that survive manage to gain weight, and lots of it.

up to 60% more weight than when they first took flight.

How could that be?

For more boring facts on migration, like banding, flight, survival and so on feel free to read Monarch Migration, the Journey South, and Monarch Facts.

The art of appreciation.

It is not just in the flowers and plants in our gardens, but also the small visitors that enrich the entire ensemble of our outdoor spaces.

Take a few extra moments to really take it all in and thank our Creator for everything.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

A man once said, "When you make a friend, you take on a responsibility."

MacGyver (Fire and Ice, season three)

Have you ever looked at your friends as being a responsibility?

SMILE and share your smiles, not with friends only, but with strangers as well.

Who knows, it may be the beginning of another rosponsibility and another friend.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.


John 15:13 (New International Version)

Thank you Jesus and God Bless.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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