While you are undoubtedly familiar with the monarchs’ fall migration, here are 10 interesting factoids you might not know:
1. The Monarchs aren’t going the way of the Dinosaur anytime soon, but…
There is reason to be concerned about the future of the monarch migration as we know it. This chart by Journey North is a sobering look at the alarming decline of what was once a booming migration:
Before you get too excited about the most recent population surge, you’ll want to see this…
2. The 2016 Monarch Migration…the smallest in years?
Monarch enthusiasts across North America were rejoicing last February when it was announced that 200 million monarchs were overwintering in Mexico last winter…up from just 57 million the year before!
But then the unthinkable happened…
It was early March and the first monarchs had just started migrating back to the US, while most were still gathered in the Mexican forest…an unfortunate twist of fate. A wicked, wintry storm tore through the overwintering colonies. A season of high hopes was instantly toppled.
Population loss estimates have been all over the place, with the latest estimate from Mexican officials putting storm related deaths at 6.2 million butterflies.
But, if their numbers had increased 3.5 times from the previous season, what happened to the other 195 million butterflies?
Was the original population estimate way off? Was the death count way off?…or is there still a missing piece to this migration mystery?
Next season, I’ll believe the winter population estimates once the spring/summer sightings confirm them…
3. Fall Blooming Plants can Attract Hundreds of Migrators!
Some luck is involved in enticing mass monarchs through your garden gates, but by planting flowers like Mist flowers, Liatris ligulistylis, and the Mexican sunflowers in the following butterfly video, living this dream is a distinct possibility…
4. Monarchs Roost on Trees in Clusters that can Number in the Thousands
This culminates in the roost to end all roosts at their Mexican wintering grounds where they number in the millions. Coastal California also has overwintering roost sites in the thousands. The trees are literally covered in a blanket of monarchs.
5. Some of the Western Monarchs DO Migrate to Mexico
It was reported at the Monarch Biology and Conservation Meeting (2012) that butterflies tagged out west have been found on the forest floors of the Mexican wintering grounds.
6. Monarch Butterflies Glide in Upper Air Masses called Thermals to Conserve Energy
They ride these thermal waves all the way to Mexico. They fly at speeds ranging between 15-25 mph…one tagged butterfly was recently reported on Journey North to have traveled 265 miles in one day.
Recent flight study results posted on journey north revealed that a monarch with 140mg of fat to burn could fly for 44 hours when flapping, but 1,060 hours when soaring and gliding!
7. Monarchs Mysteriously Arrive at the same Remote Wintering Grounds Season after Season
Strangely, none of the returning monarchs have ever been to the wintering grounds before. If there are maps from ancestors in their genetic coding, imagine what this could mean for your monarch butterfly garden at home. Once they find you…
8. The Mexican Forest is NOT a Safe Haven!
It’s estimated that more than 15% of the overwintering population will fall victim to predators that pluck them like berries from trees. These predators include black-backed orioles, black-headed grosbeaks, and black-eared mice. See one of their predators in action:
9. The Monarchs that Migrate to Mexico in Autumn are the Same Ones Returning to Lay the Foundation in Spring
These mature ladies will be seeking fresh milkweed in the southern US to start a new season filled with the magic of monarchs.
10. Migration Monarchs are Massive
While the wingspan of earlier monarch generations is generally 3.5-4″, most of the migrators have wingspans over 4″…no doubt they’ll need the super-sized wings for the long journey ahead…
Did you know these 10 things about the monarch migration? What are your favorite facts and factoids about the great fall migration? Post your comments below: