The Epic Monarchs

The Epic Monarchs

Monarch Butterflies(Danaus plexippus) in flight, El Rosario Butterfly Reserve, Michoacan , Mexico

With the beautiful Flight of the Monarchs installation in Zebedee’s Yard until next Wednesday, we take a closer look at these remarkable creatures and their more than epic journey.

The flight of the butterflies is the longest known distance insect migration on earth and one that’s been happening for thousands of years. The majority of Monarchs who survive obstacles and predators manage to thread a geographical needle, hitting a 50-mile wide gap of cool river valleys between Eagle Pass, Texas, and Del Rio, Texas, winding their way to a dozen specific high mountain peaks in central Mexico where they roost. After resting there for several months, the same generation returns north to Texas and other parts of the southern UnitedStates, where the females lay hundreds of eggs.

While rare, monarch butterflies can sometimes go off course due to storms – one has even been known to show up here in the UK. Read more here.

Monarchs have specialized body parts to help them navigate and migrate long distances. They orient themselves both in longitude and latitude – a unique ability – and can travel up to a mile high.

To conserve energy, Monarchs ride along prevailing winds and catch rising thermal waves, helping them travel great distances in a single day. They hide from the rain and will die if exposed to freezing temperatures and ice storms. Cold and moisture are deadly to the fragile butterflies and can result in hundreds of millions dying at once. Surprisingly, when the Monarchs arrive in the Mexican Sanctuaries, they are heavier and fatter than they were when they began their journey. They are able to store their lipids during their journey, so they can have fat stores whilst in Mexico.

But most intriguing mystery still remains – how do the Monarchs know to go to these particular mountaintops amongst thousands and thousands of others?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The majority of Monarchs who survive obstacles and predators manage to thread a geographical needle, hitting a 50-mile wide gap of cool river valleys between Eagle Pass, Texas, and Del Rio, Texas, winding their way to a dozen specific high mountain peaks in central Mexico where they roost. After resting there for several months, the same generation returns north to Texas and other parts of the southern UnitedStates, where the females lay hundreds of eggs.

While rare, monarch butterflies can sometimes go off course due to storms – one has even been known to show up here in the UK. Read more here.

Monarchs have specialized body parts to help them navigate and migrate long distances. They orient themselves both in longitude and latitude – a unique ability – and can travel up to a mile high.

To conserve energy, Monarchs ride along prevailing winds and catch rising thermal waves, helping them travel great distances in a single day. They hide from the rain and will die if exposed to freezing temperatures and ice storms. Cold and moisture are deadly to the fragile butterflies and can result in hundreds of millions dying at once. Surprisingly, when the Monarchs arrive in the Mexican Sanctuaries, they are heavier and fatter than they were when they began their journey. They are able to store their lipids during their journey, so they can have fat stores whilst in Mexico.

But most intriguing mystery still remains – how do the Monarchs know to go to these particular mountaintops amongst thousands and thousands of others?