Monarch Butterfly’s Amazing Migration

Although it is small and frail, the truly beautiful and magnificent looks this animal has made it one of the most iconic species of all butterflies, called by many “King of butterflies,” hence the word “monarch” as its most common name.

This amazing little creature has marveled people for centuries with its overwhelming beauty, and an increasing number of people have become interested in everything about it. Its characteristic bright orange wings with black veins and white dots in its margins can be seen in several places around the globe, such as the whole American continent, the Caribbean islands, some parts of Europe, North Africa, and Oceania. It has slight physical differences depending on the region it lives in.
Among its interesting life cycle, the one thing that has certainly left people in awe for years is the monarch butterfly winter migration in North America. The ones that have seen it occur describe it as a breathtaking, out-of-this-world experience.

Their overwintering happens once a year, starting in late September and culminating around March. As the warmth of summer starts fading out and their habitat gets colder and colder, Monarch butterflies living in the east most part of the Rocky Mountains will begin migration to Florida and the warmer forest region all the way down to Central Mexico, and the ones in the west are mostly going to live through the winter in Santa Cruz and Pacific Grove, California. After spending the winter in a hibernation state at the Mexican pines and oyamel trees, the monarchs will wake up and begin reproduction as soon as spring comes up, and as soon as the next generation is ready, the trip back to the United States and Canada will begin in mid-to-late March.

Being the insects that travel the furthest during migrating seasons, their long voyage in search of warmer lands both East and West have taken the monarch butterfly as far as the Britain, the Canaries, and several provinces in Spain!

The growing popularity that witnessing this yearly phenomenon has gained, has enormously fomented tourism in many of the sites that the monarchs pass through during their migration. Sightings may be seen all around the natural parks in Wichita Falls and Eagle Pass, in Texas, for example.

The most popular sites, however, are located in Central Mexico, about 2,500 miles away from their home place at the Rockies. The three most well-known reserves are El Rosario, Sierra Chincua, and Cerro Pelon, the three of them situated in the state of Michoacan. During the migration periods, there are guided tours, excursions, and even festivals. Eco-tourism in the zone due to the butterflies has increased the area’s income enormously, giving the locals job opportunities and promoting environmental awareness, ending furtive deforestation and getting authorities to incentivize the protection of the forests occupied by monarchs.

Once there, you are likely to see thousands and thousands of the little monarch butterflies scattered all over the place. The ones that already have arrived will be quietly resting on pine or oyamel trees, and many more will be still soaring in the skies, looking for a place to land and finally give an end to such a dramatic trip. A sight to be remembered for the years to come, that’s a given.

But don’t be discouraged if you find it difficult to travel hundreds of miles in order to observe this event. In fact, you may be able to have a similar experience at your own home, by raising monarch butterflies in your garden.

As incredible this may sound, researchers concerned with monarch butterfly population drops during the last years are actually seeing this as a good way to help stabilize their number, and also to generate popular conscience and interest in this majestic animal. All you need is to plant some plants known to attract monarch butterflies, such as milkweeds, lantanas, and verbenas, and wait for them to come. You can also promote this process by getting some butterfly eggs and leaving them safely in the plant.

Although it may be a little tricky to successfully have your own garden filled with monarch butterflies, it’s also a great opportunity for all members of the family to be more in touch with nature, and an excellent educative asset for the kids to learn and care more about the life of these beautiful insects. All in all, it really is worth the try.

 

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