With a good foot of snow on the ground, my dream of a white Christmas has apparently come true. Another wild wish has been the hope that monarch butterflies would return to the Pacific Northwest, where they have been apparently absent for years…Well, according to The Oregonian, 3,519 monarch butterflies were documented in Oregon and Washington, and even in British Columbia where only a handful of monarchs have ever been recorded.
Credit goes to an array of gardeners who started planting milkweed. One person predicted correctly: “If you plant it, they will come!”. Monarch catepillars feed only on milkweed plants. The many-legged tykes gain 2,700 times their original weight and voraciously consume an entire milkweed leaf in less than five minutes.
How do monarch butterflies know where to go when they take flight as the only long-distance insect migrator, some flying as far as 3,000 miles to reach their winter home in Mexico, traveling between 50-100 miles per day?! We’re talking about a creature that weighs less than a cloud using unknown environmental cues directing them to their winter hibernation homes.
Monarchs have been tagged for decades. Little stickers on their hind wings contain an email address and serial number so onlookers can alert researchers of their whereabouts, yet tagging them in the Pacific Northwest is new.
Washington State Univversity entomologists believe many of the butterflies in the region migrate to California, but they want to prove that some make it to Mexico, too.
Australians first called monarchs the wanderers, while Native Americans noted their perseverence, and deemed their life phases as spiritual transformations. As monarchs dream as they dangle on their forest homes in Mexico, we can dream of a time when current conservation efforts reach their goal of conserving 3,000,000 acres of monarch butterfly habitat in the United States. ~