Kansas City is an important stop along the monarch migration path. That is why we must provide the resources they need for the trip. Providing milkweed, nectar and water in your yard will help to ensure the monarchs survive their flight.
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!
Amazingly, they fly in masses to the same winter roosts, often to the exact same trees. Their migration is more the type we expect from birds or whales. However, unlike birds and whales, individuals only make the round-trip once. It is their children’s grandchildren that return south the following fall.
The monarch butterflies will spend their winter hibernation in Mexico and some parts of Southern California where it is warm all year long. If the monarch lives in the Eastern states, usually east of the Rocky Mountains, it will migrate to Mexico and hibernate in oyamel fir trees. If the monarch butterfly lives west of the Rocky Mountains, then it will hibernate in and around Pacific Grove, California in eucalyptus trees. Monarch butterflies use the very same trees each and every year when they migrate, which seems odd because they aren’t the same butterflies that were there last year. These are the new fourth generation of monarch butterflies, so how do they know which trees are the right ones to hibernate in?
We Are Connected
Because all the migrating monarchs are concentrated in just a few locations during the winter, they are especially vulnerable to harsh weather and to human activities that disrupt or destroy their habitat. This can reduce the number of monarchs that leave the overwintering sites in the spring. Similarly, migrating and breeding monarch populations are vulnerable to harsh weather and to human activities that reduce milkweed and nectar sources. This can reduce the number of monarchs that reach overwintering sites.
You can see the progression of the monarch migration at the Journey North website: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/monarch.html
Be sure to report the first monarch butterflies, caterpillars, and chrysalis that you see in your garden! If you aren’t sure when to start watching for monarchs, look up your peak timing at this Monarch Watch website: http://monarchwatch.org/tagmig/peak.html