Monarch butterflies migration Monarch butterflies migration The annual monarch butterfly migration of North America’s monarch butterfly is a unique and amazing phenomenon. Butterfly Release Company providing monarch butterflies for 24 years.
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Monarch Migration

Monarch Migration

Migration and Overwintering

The annual migration of North America’s monarch butterfly is a unique and amazing phenomenon. The monarch is the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration as birds do. Unlike other butterflies that can overwinter as larvae, pupae, or even as adults in some species, monarchs cannot survive the cold winters of northern climates. Using environmental cues, the monarchs know when it is time to travel south for the winter. Monarchs use a combination of air currents and thermals to travel long distances. Some fly as far as 3,000 miles to reach their winter home!

 

Where Do Monarchs Go?

Monarchs in Eastern North America have a second home in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. Monarchs in Western North America overwinter in California.

 

Eastern North American Population

Overwintering in Mexico

The eastern population of North America’s monarchs overwinters in the same 11 to 12 mountain areas in the States of Mexico and Michoacan from October to late March.

 

Monarchs roost for the winter in oyamel fir forests at an elevation of 2,400 to 3,600 meters (nearly 2 miles above sea level). The mountain hillsides of oyamel forest provide an ideal microclimate for the butterflies. Here temperatures range from 0 to 15 degrees Celsius. If the temperature is lower, the monarchs will be forced to use their fat reserves. The humidity in the oyamel forest assures the monarchs won’t dry out allowing them to conserve their energy.

 

 

Directional Aids

Researchers are still investigating what directional aids monarchs use to find their overwintering location. It appears to be a combination of directional aids such as the magnetic pull of the earth and the position of the sun among others, not one in particular.

 

Clustering in Colonies

Monarchs cluster together to stay warm. Tens of thousands of monarchs can cluster on a single tree. Although monarchs alone weigh less than a gram, tens of thousands of them weigh a lot. Oyamel trees are generally able to support the clustering butterflies, but sometimes branches break.

 

Protection of Oyamel Forest

Conservation of overwintering habitat is very important to the survival of monarchs. The Mexican Government recognized the importance of oyamel forests to monarch butterflies and created the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in 1986.

 

 

Monarchs can travel between 50-100 miles a day; it can take up to two months to complete their journey. The farthest ranging monarch butterfly recorded traveled 265 miles in one day.

 

 

Western North American Population

Monarchs living west of the Rocky Mountain range in North America overwinter in California along the Pacific coast near Santa Cruz and San Diego. Here microclimatic conditions are very similar to that in central Mexico. Monarchs roost in eucalyptus, Monterey pines, and Monterey cypresses in California.

 

Western North American Population

Monarchs living west of the Rocky Mountain range in North America overwinter in California along the Pacific coast near Santa Cruz and San Diego. Here microclimatic conditions are very similar to that in central Mexico. Monarchs roost in eucalyptus, Monterey pines, and Monterey cypresses in California.

 

Stories of Biodiversity on the Move, Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus)

 

A Google Earth Tour is posted on YouTube describing the migration of monarch butterflies, and the people that help them out along the way. It was produced by Atlantic Public Media in cooperation with the Encyclopedia of Life. Producers: Eduardo Garcia-Milagros and Ari Daniel Shapiro.

 

See the Monarch Butterflies Migration Google Earth Tour…

Article Posted: 03/27/2020 11:57:59 AM

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