North Bound and Coming to Your State Soon. Texas has had some “tired and lonesome” sightings of the Monarch Butterfly, so watch for the wave of advance into Texas and the Northern States.
Have you ever tracked their spring migration?
You can track migration on real-time maps and you can report your sightings on Journey North website. There is also a free Journey North app for mobile devices.
Just when there was a reported rebound in the population for 2016, March brought an ice/snow storm to Mexico, with winds high enough to topple trees, killing an undetermined number. The remaining Monarchs are off to a rough start. By reporting the first Monarch butterfly you see in the spring and continuing to report adult butterflies as you see them, you will become a “citizen scientist” making important contributions to the understanding of this year’s migration.
The First Citizen Scientist in Mexico Made an Incredible Discovery
‘Wow! Wow! Wow!’
The woman who discovered the Mexico overwintering site was not a scientist but a woman, now living in Texas, who answered a notice posted by Fred Urquhart, a Canadian zoologist, in an 1973 Mexico City newspaper. He was seeking volunteers to search for and tag monarchs. Catalina Aguado Trail sought to solve the mystery of “where do the Monarchs go after leaving TX in the fall?”, which was unknown then. Following her curiosity, it took over 2 years of strenuous expeditions before she and her companion Ken Brugger discovered the Monarchs’ sanctuary deep in the high mountains of Mexico. As reported in the March 2016 issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife Maiden of The Monarchs, Catalina remembers that upon finding a colony one afternoon, she stopped dead in her tracks and yelled, “‘I need the camera! I see them! I see them! Up Here!'” “Ken hurried up behind me, and all he could say was, ‘Oh, my God!’ From then on, there was complete silence. Neither of us could talk. I will never get over seeing so many butterflies at one time. I don’t have the word to describe what I saw. My mind just went blank,” she continues. “Then Ken and I walked together. We kept whispering, ‘Wow! Wow! Wow!’ “ The high firs were shrouded with millions of dormant butterflies! She graced the 1976 August cover of National Geographic due to this discovery.
The purpose of tagging is to directly relate the location of the butterfly’s original capture and tag placement with the site of tag recovery. In the fall the butterflies are captured, tagged with a circular tag on the hind wing that carries ID information, and released. Fred Urquhart and his wife Nora, founder of the Insect Migration Association, developed this tagging system where volunteers can get involved. Today this work is carried on by ‘Monarch Watch’, founded by Dr Chip Taylor. So much useful information is derived from the findings of these tagged butterflies by “citizen scientists”. It helps to reveal their traveling path, traveling speed, and the challenges that they find along their migration to Mexico. How can we assist? Do they have enough native nectar plants? Are they being affected by the pesticides being sprayed on crops and plants? Are the overwintering habitats being protected enough? If you are east of the Rocky Mountains, you can get involved this fall; all you need is a butterfly net, a kit with tags issued by Monarch Watch in August and a notebook to record your findings. The joy in this girl says it all! Help protect the Monarchs for future generations.
Four Generations in one year
It takes a full year to complete the Monarch’s migration cycle in the US and what is hard to keep track of is the four generations that it takes to go from their hibernation sites to their northern summer/fall home. The Monarchs east of the Rockies leave the Oyamel fir trees of Mexico and Monarchs west of the Rockies leave the eucalyptus trees of Pacific Grove in southern California. Some do winter over in Florida. Following the bloom of the milkweed and the warm currents of spring air, they move in waves toward southern Canada mating and laying their eggs on its host plant, the milkweed, along the way. Each young caterpillar, munching only milkweed, will have gone through 4 life stages (egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), adult) before their generation advances north. Each northern generation will only live 4-6 weeks, so it takes up to 3 generations for the eastern Monarchs to complete the incredible 2,000 mile journey to Canada. Texas, my home state, hosts the monarchs directly from Mexico in the spring and sees their children grow, who then fly off to more northern states. Depending on the distance, they travel in daylight and can fly up to 81 miles a day; their progression into the northern states will be populated by their grandchildren, great-grandchildren or great-great grandchildren. It is the great-great grandchildren, termed the Methuselah or “Super Generation” (they live 8 times longer and travel 10 times farther), that will fly all the way from Canada in the fall without laying any eggs until they reach their southern overwintering sites in November. The flocks from the upper states all funnel into Texas before moving in a single fly-way to their Mexico sanctuary. Five months of rest and this “Methuselah Generation” ventures forth on yet another miraculous migration. How does their homing system work? How does a generation of butterflies that have never roosted in Mexico find the exact trees that the great-great grandparents used and arrive at the exact time? Still unknown mysteries.
This is Robin Aisha Landsong’s beautiful artwork in colored pencil/pastel. In this first work called “Birth of Butterfly”, the mandala represents the portal from which the butterfly came. In the second piece, the portal is closed so the butterfly can commit to being here in this physical world- “Butterfly Touching The Closed Portal” and in the third piece where it will return- “Butterfly Crossing Through the Portal”. ©Robin Aisha Landsong
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