May 5 – Spring Has Sprung

Today’s factismal: The annual Monarch migration is underway!

Animal migrations are something of a commonplace miracle. Every year, huge numbers of some species moves from the place where it lives in the winter to the place where it lives in the summer, brightening the lives of those fortunate enough to live someplace in between. Folks in Hawai’i get to see the majestic humpback and grey whales as they migrate from Alaska down to Antarctica and back. Folks in Tanzania to Kenya get to see the wildebeest as they roam the savannah. And folks across the United States get to see the monarch butterfly as it wings its way from Mexico to Canada and back.

The route taken by four generations of monarchs for time immemorial

The route taken by four generations of monarchs for time immemorial

And this year is no exception. Once again, the monarch butterfly migration is on. It takes the monarch four generations to go from its winter habitat in Mexico to the summer plants of Canada and back again. Along the way, they’ll sit and sip on plants in just about every state of the USA. And this year, more than two  million monarchs will make the journey. That’s nearly double the number from last year, which is good news, but down 94% from the high in 1997 when more than 18 million butterflies flew the route. Put another way, the recent high in butterfly population is lower than the previous low.

Monarch butterfly population since 1994

Monarch butterfly population since 1994

Naturally, butterfly lovers aren’t taking the decline lying down. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is spending some $2 million on restoring habitat for the Monarch by planting milkweed and other native plants in more than 200,000 acres spread from California to Iowa to Ohio to Arkansas to Texas; everywhere that Monarchs fly will see an upgrade. They’re also working with more than 750 schools to plant butterfly gardens to be used by the butterflies as a spot to rest, to east, and to lay their eggs and by the teachers and students as a place to observe the wonders of nature close-up. And they have created a conservation fund to encourage farmers and landowners to preserve natural habitats.

A butterfly seeking a good place for its eggs (My camera)

A butterfly seeking a good place for its eggs
(My camera)

So what can you do? Why not plant some milkweed in your garden for the butterflies to roost on? It is a pretty and hardy plant, which means that you can have beauty without having to spend a lot of time on it. And why not register any butterflies that come your way with one of the many projects at Monarch Joint Venture? You’ll help us keep track of everyone’s favorite butterfly and have an opportunity to learn more about the other winged wonders in our skies!
http://monarchjointventure.org/get-involved/study-monarchs-citizen-science-opportunities/

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