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Monarch Migration
September 16, 2019

(Praying Mantis on front door.)

How was last week for you?

Other than the weather being a big mixed bag, we had a rather stress free week.

A welcome change, as much of the summer has been too busy to enjoy.

Brandy gets her stitches out this Thursday, she barely missed a beat in her active life.

Yolanda's birthday is also Thursday (Sept. 19).

We are planning a road trip (Friday), to celebrate.

Goldfinches are a bit late this year, pictured are a couple of adult males, but the fledglings weren't too far off begging for food.

As I've said before, every season (even everyday), nature offers something.

Check out the sunflower at the bottom of this letter.

More than 100 blooms and more buds coming.

So top heavy, the plant is drooping, even while being staked.

I don't recall ever having one so blessed before.

Also pictured is an Orb Weaver Spider, doing her thing.

Milkweeds host more than Monarch caterpillars.

There are milkweed beetles as well.

Pictured from my yard this past week, is the larvae of the Milkweed Tussock Moth (Euchaetes egle).

Once again, the bright colors on this rather attractive, hairy creature are a warning to the rest of nature to 'Back Off', I taste bad.

Which is the reason Monarch Butterflies are a bright orange.

So this is my segue into the reason for this letter.

In late summer and early fall, every monarch in the United States and Canada starts a journey and not a single one of them have been to the winter grounds, and not a single one of them will make it to their place of birth/hatching.

Today's article is once again on Monarch Migration and the Epic Journey.


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.

However, it is never the same butterfly.

Yet, we wait for the yearly event.

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 and through your flowers.

If you live along the migration trails, feel blessed as you witness one of “Nature's” true marvels.

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.

There are very few predators that attack this butterfly as it is foul-tasting and poisonous due to the presence of Cardenolide 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 nectar plants to attract them into our gardens.

However, without host plants for caterpillars, there will be no butterflies of any kind, to enjoy the nectar filled offerings.

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 the monarch apart from all other species of butterfly.

The Epic Journey Begins:

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

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.

The last generation of the summer enters into a non-reproductive phase known as diapause.

During diapause, butterflies fly to one of many overwintering sites.

Diapause is the delay in development in response to regularly and recurring periods of adverse environmental conditions.

Diapause is not only induced in an organism by specific stimuli or conditions, but once it is initiated, only certain other stimuli are capable of bringing the organism out of diapause (length of day and temperature comes to mind).

As they wake up, immature organs grow and they grow into adults, ready to reproduce.

The generation that overwinters or hibernates, generally does not reproduce until it leaves the overwintering site sometime in February and March.

Once again, when the late summer and early fall Monarchs emerge from their pupae, or chrysalides, they are biologically and behaviorally different from those emerging in the summer.

You might say they are like adult sized kids. Big enough, but not able to reproduce right now.

The shorter days and cooler air of late summer trigger changes.

In the northern extremes of its territory, this occurs around the end of August.

Even though these butterflies look like summer adults, they won't mate or lay eggs until the following spring.

Instead, their small bodies prepare for a strenuous flight.

Otherwise solitary animals, they often cluster at night while moving ever southward.

You may have witnessed this.

Like birds, they take off when there is abundant food and warm weather.

No pushing the panic button to head South, but, if they linger too long they won't be able to make the journey; because they are cold-blooded, they are unable to fly in cold weather.

40 degrees above zero and they are paralyzed.

Fat, stored in the abdomen, is a critical element of their survival for the winter (butterflies weigh more when they reach their destination than they weighed when their journey began).

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.

It is the great, great, great grand kids of these butterflies that wintered over, that now spend the summer months in the States and in Canada, and the last generation of late summer and early autumn will begin the journey all over again.

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

Here in Michigan, Monarch Migration has begun.

At the very bottom of Monarch Migration, the Journey South you will find a time table for your latitude.

When you see them in the garden over the next few weeks, try and put yourself in their place for a moment.

Can you imagine 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?

To a place you have never seen, yet you know you must get there no matter what.

It used to be an estimated one billion Monarchs would start the migration south.

This year, I have seen more Monarchs than I have for the past several years.

A strong indicator, but far from the hundreds of millions there once was.

Now toss in winter storms, fires, and predators while you sleep.

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 is this possible?

To gain so much weight and still be able to fly?

You can always help the Monarchs, by offering nectar rich food and more important.

Host plants like the milkweed family.

For many wild creatures, loss of habitat is the number one cause for their decline.

It isn't too late to plant some host plants this fall, for next spring.

For more facts on migration, migration time schedules , tagging, flight, survival and so on, you should read The Journey South, and Some Monarch Facts. By all means, read and study up on the Monarch Butterfly from as many sources as you can.

I suggest The Monarch Watch Website., is a plethora of information.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

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

God Bless.

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly."

Richard Bach

Amen to that.

From the word of God

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

1 Cor.5:17 (NIV)

"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.

A Blessed week to you .

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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