“The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity.”
Humans aren’t the only ones in North America who travel south for the winter. Right now, most of the East Coast is in the midst of a huge migration in preparation for the winter: monarch butterflies.
Beginning in September and October, the eastern/northeastern populations travel from Canada all the way down to central Mexico! They will overwinter there, like many other snowbirds, and then start traveling back north in March. Since their lifespans aren’t that long, it is an intergenerational relay race over thousands of miles.
Unfortunately, the habitat for monarchs are under threat at both ends of their migration. Forests in Mexico are being cut down, eliminating the preferred trees of the butterflies. In other places, milkweed is being cut down or burned in fires. Monarchs only lay their eggs in these plants, caterpillars only eat milkweed. Without it, the butterflies can’t survive.
While I only saw a handful of butterflies in Boston as they traveled through, you can see thousands in Mexico. After looking at a few of these trips, they are definitely on my bucketlist now. Traveling by foot or horseback out to see them nested in trees? Sounds amazing. Would you be willing to trek to see that many butterflies?
What can you do to help make sure phenomenon like this continue?
- Leave milkweed alone!
- Plant butterfly friendly plants in your yard.
- Stop using harsh herbicides and try more natural weed killers instead
- Report your sightings of monarchs here
- Check out this article for more info!
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