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The Beautiful Migration Of The Monarch Butterflies
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The most beautiful of all butterflies, this family of the butterflies has rightly been named as the “monarch” butterflies. These butterflies are known for the splendid and remarkable colour pattern on their wings that exhibit prominent orange, dark brown or black and white.
These butterflies have their natural habitat divided between two of their populations – in eastern or north-eastern and western. Every year these butterflies migrate from the north towards the south. Since they are very sensitive to the climate, they migrate from the southern Canada and north-northeast of USA towards the south, to Mexico. The western population on the other hand, migrates towards the region between the coast of California and the Rocky Mountains.
Why is the migration so important?
Apart from the aspect of visual spectacle, there is yet another very important fact associated with the monarch butterfly migration. It is the only butterfly family that is known to complete a two-way migration, just as many migrating birds are known to do. It is during the late summer or early fall or autumn that these butterflies start their migration trip. The month is usually October. However, it can start even earlier than that, if the weather starts to turn colder than usual by this time.
Some important facts about monarch butterflies:
• The eastern and north-eastern population of these butterflies has their second home near the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. These butterflies hibernate or overwinter in the oyamel fir trees.
• The western population, living west of the Rocky Mountains, migrates to the Pacific Grove, California. These butterflies overwinter in the eucalyptus trees of the Pacific Grove, California.
• One of the most amazing Monarch Butterfly Facts regarding their migration is that they travel to the south because of their intolerance of the chilly weather in the north. Their return trip to the north is because of the absence of larval food plants in south, as they grow in plenty only in the north.
• They can fly as long as 3,000 miles for migrating.
• No single butterfly will complete a round trip from north to south and back. It is every fourth generation of the butterflies that will do the migration.
How the fourth generation undergoes migration?
Every year, during the months of October, an entire population of these monarch butterflies will travel down south. There they will hibernate for about six months or more. It is in the months of March and April that after hibernating for so many months, they will find their mates. After mating, they will return back to their northern habitat and lay eggs on milkweed. This first generation of the butterflies will die soon after laying eggs.
The laid eggs will hatch in four days. The larva that comes out is the monarch butterfly caterpillar. It will eat the weed and within two weeks, will be fully grown as a caterpillar. It will hide inside a pupa and take another few days to go through metamorphosis. As it comes out of the pupa, it will be a monarch butterfly. It will live shortly for two to six weeks. This will continue to mate and lay eggs and die soon. The cycle will repeat again to give birth to two more generations that dies soon after laying eggs. It is the fourth generation of these butterflies that is capable of completing the migration during winter, as it can live for up to six to eight months.
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