“No other animal is more typical of a healthy environment, nor more susceptible to change, than a butterfly” -Feltwell 1986.
If you are a nature lover you are certain to have seen a Monarch if you live in North America. The annual Monarch migration is a unique and amazing natural phenomenon! They travel almost 2000 miles one way! During spring it migrates north from the Oyamel forests in Central Mexico and returns South during fall.
Monarchs are essentially tropical butterflies with a wing span of 2-4inches. They lay eggs on milkweed plants along their migration route. 3 generations of Monarchs are part of one complete annual migration. The exact migratory path or how they find their way is still uncertain and scientists are trying to figure it out still.
Every year the Local parks team with people looking to see the Monarch butterflies return. Monarchs are the butterflies with the longest life spans in Ohio and are found in all 88 counties of Ohio. Male are more vibrantly colored than the females of the species and both are a treat to sore eyes! There are 2 sets of adults every year the first ones are seen in summer and live from 2-5 weeks and the next one which migrates south to Mexico in hordes live for up to 10 months! The Monarch Migration is Spectacular!
The Oyamel fir on which the butterflies winter are now being lost thanks to logging. As per the article in The Columbus Dispatch land lost to logging and development in the last 18years is around 147 million acres of Oyamel forest habitat. This loss of habitat to development and illegal logging, use of harmful Glyphosate herbicides in farming and climate change along its migratory route has led to severe drops in the numbers of Monarchs every year. Population estimates based on acreage covered by them during wintering has found that during 1996-97 season 52 acres of trees were covered by monarchs where as last winter it had dropped to 4.8acres. This year torrential rains are supposed to have killed 50% of the Monarch population.
Lincoln Brower a Biology professor at the Sweet Briar College in Virginia, who has studied Monarchs since 1954, says “The migration of the monarch butterfly is an endangered natural Phenomenon. It could go down the drain”. The Monarch is a pollinator that helps a host of plants and wild flowers to survive, which will get affected by their dropping numbers.
Experts suggest we plant more milkweed and other plants that attract butterflies. If in the next year the population covers acreage of around 10 the scientists would consider it a victory. Do remember the milkweed is the only plant the caterpillars of the Monarch Butterfly use.
To read more go to Threatened Monarchy on The Columbus Dispatch.
If interested you could also check out this video Monarch Butterfly Migration – a video from You tube