It’s November. Okay, yes, I know. In my last post, I pretended October was, in fact, August. Just call me the Queen of Denial.
Thanks to Pam Tillis, I’ve seen the light. Actually, I’ve seen the dark. The turning back of the clocks helped. I may have gained an hour, but there’s no denying that the days are getting shorter. Now, if only Mother Nature would tell the Monarch butterflies.
According to the calendar, it’s November. (sigh) This means the Monarchs should have packed their bags and started on their migration to Mexico where they’ll hibernate for the winter.
But, nope, I have two stragglers. Instead of hightailing it out of Dodge… (I couldn’t resist. This one’s for you, John.)
…they’re meandering around the yard, drinking the nectar from the remaining blossoms on the butterfly bush, sunning themselves, and acting as if they have all the time in the world.
If we have a severe cold spell, they’re not going to be happy–or alive!
Allow me to explain how things should be going for them. It’s November (deep, heavy sigh) and by now, if they had any bug brains, they’d be halfway into their 3000-plus mile trek. On a typical day, one butterfly will travel anywhere between 100 and 200 miles. Damn, how such a delicate creature accomplishes this is beyond comprehension. Their little wings must be sturdy as heck.
The Monarch butterfly’s life cycle is one of the coolest in the insect world. Let’s start with the Fall migration. Typically, each year, millions (yes, millions) of Monarchs make the trip from Canada and the US. (Sadly, the number of Monarch butterflies is declining.)
For the hearty ones that do arrive, they’ll bring new hope to many people of Mexico.
Once they arrive, the Monarchs will cluster in such large quantities that their combined weight can actually make a tree branch snap. Honest. It’s true! My entomology professor told the class this. Of course, that was back in the seventies and he might have been high, but still…
Around February or March, these southern beauties will find a mate, do the wild thing, then start their journey back north. Along the way, they’ll stop and lay eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. (Add milkweeds to your gardens. Please!)
The eggs will hatch and the caterpillars will crawl around, eat the leaves, and little wanna-be butterfly will form a chrysalis and voila, a butterfly will emerge.
This new wave of adult butterflies forms the first generation, the children of the Monarchs that lived in Mexico. Although they have a short lifespan, two to five weeks, they continue moving north.
Stay with me because this is where it gets good. The first generation adults will stop and lay eggs. The eggs will hatch, crawl, eat, morph, emerge, forming the second generation, the grandchildren of the butterflies from Mexico, and another group of adults with a short lifespan who continue the northward movement.
The second generation butterflies will produce the third generation, or the great-grandchildren of the first generation. In my neck of the woods, the Monarchs I get in the summer are most likely third generation.
This is where it gets really good. The third generation stays put and mates, lays egg, blah, blah, blah, and forms the fourth generation. This generation lives for months! It’s these great, great grandchildren that will migrate south!
I don’t know how they do it. I’m exhausted just writing about it.
Back to my own little friends. I sure hope they make the decision to leave. If not, I’ll help out and take them into the house for the winter. I’ll plant a tree, crank the heat, and play a Spanish language CD. Who knows, I might start a whole new migration pattern for the species.
Mother Nature rocks. Blessed be. :}