Truth be known, as you read this blog post, I will be returning from beautiful Oaxaca Mexico. Mexico is such a beautiful country full of fascinating culture, incredible food, and friendly people, but Mexico is also an extremely important place for the monarch butterfly. The Eastern North American population migrates to the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico while the Western North American population overwinters in sunny California near Santa Cruz and San Diego. Like me, these gorgeous creatures cannot tolerate cold winter temperatures! They cluster together in their winter retreats, like a clump of grapes, to keep warm. Unfortunately, monarch butterfly populations have declined over past decades causing the White House to list their conservation as one of three overarching goals in the Federal Pollinator Strategy and invertebrate conservation groups, such as The Xerces Society, have urged landowners to plant milkweed plants, the host obligate food source for caterpillars, to improve monarch habitat across the United States.
Here a few more fun facts to flutter over about monarch butterflies:
- Monarch butterflies can travel between 50 and 100 miles a day!
- The farthest single recorded monarch butterfly journeyed 265 miles in a single day!
- Monarch butterflies may have to travel up to 3,000 miles to reach their winter oasis.
- Monarch butterflies are called ‘Mariposa monarca’ in Mexico.
- Eastern North American monarchs overwinter in Mexico from October to late March.
- Tens of thousands of monarch butterflies can cluster in a single tree – sometimes breaking branches from the thousands of tiny bodies weighing less than a gram individually.
- Scientists, school groups, and conservation enthusiasts have been tracking butterfly migrations, find out how at the Journey North Monarch Butterfly Peak Migration map.
Visit the Fish and Wildlife Service Monarch Migration and Overwintering website for these and more fascinating facts about monarch butterflies. Make sure to check out the cool ‘see the monarch butterflies migration google earth tour’ video while you are there and prepare yourself to be amazed!