Every Fall season, millions of Monarch butterflies migrate south from Canada to winter in warmer climes. The Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains migrate to southern California, while those east of the Rockies return to Mexico. The two populations are separate and distinct to their regions, never mixing unless by the hand of man. The Monarch is the only butterfly that migrates both north and south, and when they gather together it is an impressive display.
I was hiking around on the southern end of Folly Beach – near Charleston, South Carolina – when I happened upon a large gathering of Monarchs. This alone was beautiful, but something else rather interesting caught my eye. Several of them featured a small round disc on the lower portion of the wing. Turns out it is a polypropylene tag that the University of Kansas uses to monitor the migration patterns of Monarchs.
A quick web search, and I discovered a wealth of information about these fascinating little creatures on MonarchWatch.org. They also have a blog, and according to a recent post, this year will be the smallest migration since 2004 due to excessive drought.
Images courtesy of MonarchWatch.org.
I still remember as a child collecting caterpillars, poking holes in the metal cap of a glass jar, and impatiently waiting until the day when a beautiful butterfly would emerge from its papery pupa. The transformation was nothing short of amazing. As an adult, I am equally impressed by this fragile creature’s ability to annually navigate what has become increasingly challenging obstacles, all on paper-thin wings.