Did you know that the Monarch Butterfly can fly up to 50-100 miles a day?!
A fluttering of orange catches my eye; I see a lovely Monarch Butterfly twirl and float on the breeze. It pauses for a moment as if deciding whether to land on the upturned face of red or yellow flower. The Monarch takes a few seconds to sip some nectar, then it ascends with such beauty and grace even the flowers cannot compete. There wings are a bright orange-red with black veins and white spots along the edges. Often, the Monarch is confused with the similar sized yellow and black Western Swallow tail.
Allow me to spin you a true tale of this remarkable winged insect. They take flight on an epic journey that is a migratory phenomenon. The distance is an unbelievable 2,000 to 5,000 kilometers and lasts two months! The migration occurs in the Fall and the most northern starting point is southern Canada (i.e., Kelowna). Time is of great importance as Monarch butterflies have very short life spans between 4 to 6 weeks unless they are a late summer generation then they live 6 to 7 months. During migration, to conserve energy, they ride columns of rising warm air to reduce the need to flap their wings. Moreover, they have been observed as high as one kilometer catching the strong winds that significantly speed up
their arduous journey. Along the journey these butterflies will roost together in trees numbering in the hundreds or even thousands. A few of the Monarchs overwinter along the coast of California, but most land in Michoacán, Mexico on the Monarch Butterfly Reserve. Thousands of them land on fir trees turning the forest into an enchanted golden colour. Can you imagine what that would be like to see this phenomena? It continues to amaze me that this butterfly can locate this area without ever being there before.
Sadly, there has been a great decline in their numbers. Some of the reasons are: lack of the milkweed plant of which the caterpillars feed exclusively on, herbicide use, and loss of territory from logging and farming.
To help these incredible insects, learning more about them is a great start, also protecting the milkweed plant from being cut down or trampled, as the Monarch butterfly can seek out the smallest patches to lay their eggs upon. To see one of these winged beauties is worth all the effort.
Have you seen one yet, this summer? I hope you do, as they add even more beauty to the already picturesque Wilden trails.