Posted by: ktzefr | April 17, 2011

10 Reasons to be awed by the monarchs

I’m not talking about the British royalty; I’m referring here to butterflies.  It’s that time of year again when the monarch butterflies head north from the mountains of Mexico.   Here are 10 fun facts that make the migrating monarchs an awesome spectacle of nature:

1)  Some butterflies travel as far as 3,000 miles in the autumn to reach their winter home.

2)  Some butterfly species can overwinter as larvae or pupae, but the monarchs can not overwinter in cold climates.  They must fly to warmer climes to survive.

3)  Monarchs in the western part of North America spend the winter months in Southern California; monarchs in the East winter in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico.

4)  The butterflies roost in fir trees at higher elevations, nearly two miles above sea level.

5)  No one knows exactly how the monarchs determine direction, but it’s believed that it is the combination of the magnetic pull of the earth and the position of the sun that tells them which way to fly.

Check out this “cascade” of butterflies in their winter home in Mexico…

6)  The butterflies cluster together in the tens of thousands to stay warm.  Although individual butterflies are feather light, the clusters have been known to be so heavy as to break tree branches.

7)  Each new generation of butterflies instinctively knows how to get to their winter home in Mexico even though they have never been.

8)  Butterflies have the broadest visual spectrum of any known animals!  They can see more colors than you can.  They can even see UV light, which humans can’t.

9)  Monarchs were sent into space via the shuttle Atlantis in 2009 to live out their lives in the International Space Station.  They are now on permanent display at Monarch Watch in Kansas.

10) A monarch butterfly flaps its wings about 5 to 12 times a second or 300 to 750 times a minute!

By late March 2011 the monarch migration had reached Oklahoma, leaving a trail of eggs 1,000 miles long.  They are quickly settling into areas where the milkweed is emerging and plentiful.

Have you seen any butterflies this spring?

You can follow the 2011 monarch migration at the Monarch Butterfly Migration Tracking Project and at Monarch Butterfly Migration and Overwintering. 

Additional butterfly pics on this blog at The Monarchs are Coming.

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