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Monarch Butterflies Are On The Move
September 18, 2017
Fresh faces continue to come to my yard and feeders.
Here is a picture of a Hairy Woodpecker, sporting a fresh coat of feathers
You can notice how bright and clean they look.
For the next few weeks, newly fledged Northern cardinals, and Gold finches will visit too.
At least they have in years past.
We enter the last few days of summer,
Daylight continues to shrink at about three minutes a day.
I want you to know, that hurts me to have to say that.
Summer has made a return, however.
Temperatures are warmer than they have been since mid August, as yesterday (Sunday), was one of the most oppressive days of the season with heat and humidity.
We are still very dry in my Part of Michigan.
Readers in other parts of the state and much of the Great Lakes Region Don't know what I am saying, but it is fact.
So much so, that many of the trees are changing color (very muted), and dropping leaves due to stress.
The bonus for me is beach time.
Lake Michigan, swimming, fresh air, time to relax.
It also give me a chance to watch several Monarch Butterflies follow the lake shore on their migration to Mexico.
I write on this every year to draw some attention to one of nature's wonders.
Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus):
Pictured is Meadow Blazingstar (Liatris ligulistylis).
I give this plant some love, as it is truly a monarch magnate for your yard.
The monarch is the most recognizable of butterflies to most people.
It is also a butterfly in danger of extinction.
The plight of this once familiar butterfly in every garden is well documented.
I'm being redundant, but it needs to be reported more often.
The loss of habitat and pesticides is wreaking havoc on the marvelous creature.
Back to migration.
The monarch is one of the largest butterflies, with a wingspan of up to 4 inches across.
Imagine, a butterfly making the migration both North and South like the birds.
However, it is never the same butterfly that completes the round trip.
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.
The Epic Journey Begins:
Migration may not seem all that amazing to you, 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.
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 chrysalis, 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.
Instead of mating, their small bodies prepare for a strenuous flight.
Otherwise solitary animals, they often cluster at night while moving ever southward.
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.
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.
Some will say it is hard wired in, but who put that so called hard wiring in place.
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.
Here in Michigan, monarch migration is on, and this lasts a couple of weeks.
I've seen a few more this year than the last couple of years, this has to be a good sign.
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 strange location?
To a place you have never seen, yet you know you must get there no matter what.
Against all 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 Monarch Migration, the Journey South, and Monarch Facts.
By all means, read and study up on the Monarch Butterfly from as many sources as you can.
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.
"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly".
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.
Your friend indeed,
Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.
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