The orange and black of the Monarch Butterfly is a beautiful part of our summer gardens and we are a critical part of their migration and survival. Each fall these butterflies that weigh less than a gram, make what for some is a 3000-mile migration to their winter home in the States of Mexico and Michoacan. And while it is amazing to think about a butterfly being a long-distance migrant, the truly mind-blowing part is that no one butterfly completes the full migration! In fact, each year there are 4 generations of monarch butterflies. The first three generations live between 5 and 7 weeks over the summer, but it is the fourth generation that lives 7 to 8 months, overwintering in Mexico’s oyamel fir forests close to two miles above sea level.
Visiting these winter colonies in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is phenomenal! Words can’t describe the site and sound of thousands of Monarch butterflies flushing into the air as the morning sun warms their clustered bodies. In late February and early March, this flushing behavior signals the start of their journey north. Fueling up on the nectar of flowers blooming on the forest floor, these once still butterflies begin to breed and make their way to Texas where they deposit their eggs on milkweed and the next generation continues their march north.
This is where you can help!! By planting native milkweed in your gardens you are creating Monarch nurseries for the 2nd 3rd and 4th generations of Monarch butterflies. You can also create fueling stations by adding pollinator-friendly habitats to the urban landscape. It’s easy to do too!! Join the Cincinnati Zoo’s Plant for Pollinator Challenge and certify your garden.
This year may be the most important year in a decade to get involved as the winter colonies were estimated to be at a 10 year high!
Plant Milkweed and invite Monarch butterflies into your backyard!!
Click on the photos below to scroll through the images from my trip to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve:
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