Our spirts dance with the flutter of the monarch butterfly. But don’t be fooled by the delicate, free-flying beauty. They are considered to exhibit the most highly evolved migration patterns of any known species of insects and follow a fascinating tag-team of life cycles.
Repeatedly, four generations of butterflies complete four unique phases. Beginning around February or March, the first generation returns from a warmer climate, locates a mate, and lays eggs on milkweed plants. The eggs develop into larvae, a form of caterpillars.
Caterpillars are voracious eaters, capable of consuming an entire milkweed leaf in less than five minutes. They gain about 2700 times their original weight, and in the process, excrete an abundant quantity of “frass” (or waste).
A monarch butterfly caterpillar then pupates into a chrysalis. Metamorphous continues into an adult butterfly. Females are distinguished from males by the lack a black spot on an inside surface of its hind wing. This generation as well as the next, lives about six weeks and repeats the process of finding a mate and laying eggs.
As a grand finale, the fourth generation of the monarch butterfly lives considerably longer—six to eight months—and is the only one to migrate to warmer climates. Monarchs fly at speeds ranging between 12 to 25 miles an hour. Similar to migrating birds, they use the advantage of updrafts of warm air to glide as they migrate. This helps preserve energy required for flapping their wings for the 2500-mile flight from the Great Lakes to Central Mexican fir forests.
While in Central Mexico, the incredible monarch butterflies, once again, begin a four-generation cycle through their life spans. The last generation makes the return 2500-mile voyage to the Great Lakes the following spring.
Butterflies are an integral element of our landscape. However, the king of all butterflies may not be around for much longer. The population has decreased to levels of near extinction due to colder, wetter winters and hotter drier summers, development, and widespread use of herbicides, all of which has severely reduced their food source. We can help by planting milkweeds and other nectar plants. For more information, go to the Monarch Waystation Program.
Have you read my latest post, Sacred Water, on my other blog?
I’m out and about speaking to family caregivers with loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. Please join me:
1/21/20, 6-7p, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Arden Courts of West Orange, NJ
1/22/20, 6-7p, Navigating Alzheimer’s, Arden Courts of Whippany, NJ
1/23/20, 6-7p, Navigating Alzheimer’s, Arden Courts of Wayne, NJ
2/12/20, 11-12:30, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Arden Courts of Largo, FL
3/17/20, 5:30-7, Home-Managed Care, Arden Courts of Avon, CT
3/18/20, 5:30-7, Home-Managed Care, Arden Courts, Farmington, CT
4/2/20, 1-2:30p, Navigating Alzheimer’s, Inter-Faith Chapel, Leisure World, MD
(Photo Credit: Free Stock Photo of Monarch Butterfly)