Monday, September 13, 2010
See you next spring: the Monarchs are moving south!
The Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, is the official butterfly of the State of Minnesota. Minneapolis celebrated the start of this magnificent creature's 2,300-mile migration to its overwintering grounds in Michoacán Mexico Minnesota style with the second annual Monarch Festival. Over the past many summers I worked with scientists at the University of Minnesota in bringing the science of insect ecology to teachers and their students. I use these insects to help my own college students to learn how to teach science. I monitor monarchs each summer at our hobby farm as part of the data collection efforts of the monarch larva-monitoring project, a citizen science initiative where I am often accompanied by one or more of my grandbabies. So you can say for a variety of reasons, this beloved creature is near and dear to my heart and that of my family.
Monarch butterflies cannot survive the long cold winter in Minnesota or any other cold northern area. Instead, they spend the winter in roosting spots. Monarchs east of the Rockies travel to the central mountains of Michoacán Mexico where they seek sanctuary in the oyamel forests high in the mountains. Seasonal changes in day length and temperature influence the movement of the Monarch. “In all the world, no butterflies migrate like the Monarchs of North America. They travel much farther than all other tropical butterflies, up to three thousand miles. They are the only butterflies to make such a long, two-way migration every year. Amazingly, they fly in masses to the same winter roosts, often to the exact same trees. Their migration is more the type we expect from birds or whales. However, unlike birds and whales, individuals only make the round-trip once. It is their children's grandchildren that return south the following fall” (Monarch Watch). This festival was a send off for the monarchs who will arrive in Mexico around the Day of the Dead, November 1. Here is a graphic with a map of their route.
Celebrating the monarch migration through art.
And with kites:
Nani, Owie and Greta monitoring monarch larvae at our farm. They are counting how many monarchs are present on over 100 common milkweed plants. They count the eggs, larva,the rare pupa and adults.
Releasing monarchs to travel south to Mexico:
So now you know a little bit more about my life and interests besides my journey to better health. How did I do with another event that featured FOOD? Great! No problem. Rode my bike to the festival with Ellery in the Burley about 8 miles round trip to get my exercise in and prepared with a snack. I did have a few bites of some of the best made tamales we can get in Minnesota, but other than that, stayed true. As a matter of fact each time I weather an event with food it is getting easier and easier to ignore the food. The food was not the event. The celebration of the monarchs was. So, long monarch butterflies. Travel safe. See your great or grandchildren back here in Minnesota next May! And readers in Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas here they come!