Monarch butterflies are one of those magical spirits that float in the air. With their delicate nature, they endure a grueling round-trip migration route of upwards to 3,000 miles from the Eastern North America to the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico.
Mexico is where they are found in enormous clusters gathered on oyamel fir forest trees to gather warmth and strength. Their Migration route is nothing short of miraculous. How a new generation of butterflies or “Mariposas” in Spanish know the route that leads them to Central Texas, then onward to the Mexican mountains is still a mystery. Perhaps it’s the earth’s magnetic pull, or the positioning of the sun, either way millions of Monarch butterflies find their way to their winter home.
When migrating north, the Monarch migration is actually a multi-generational where three to four generations of monarchs make the journey to North America. There is a similar migration route on the California coast, although not quite as long, the butterflies winter in southern California in Monterrey Pines, Cypress and Eucalyptus trees.
The Monarch is the only butterfly known to migrate as the birds do, making them truly unique. Diminishing natural habitats have caused a hardship on the monarch population and their numbers have dramatically dropped. The need for conservation and preservation of the monarch has become critical.
Providing Milkweed plants in your garden will help these beautiful butterflies. Milkweed is essential for the Monarch for laying eggs and forage for caterpillars. The decline of native Milkweed has occurred due to development, the growth of soybean and corn farming, and use of weed management on the U.S. highway system. Known for not reseeding well, Milkweed is best grown from milkweed plugs. Zinnias, Pentas, Butterfly bush and others are also a wonderful plant to offer adult monarchs a source for nectar in late summer.
You can also be part of the research on understanding the monarch migration by Reporting your monarch sightings on Journey North.
As a friend said to me this week “With many hands, the work is easy.” If we all do a little bit to help these special Mariposas, in time we can make a difference.