October 09, 2012
Posted By: Charlotte Nature Museum
As we welcome a splash of beautiful red and orange fall foliage, it is time to bid farewell to one of the most colorful insects: the butterfly. You might notice these gorgeous fluttering insects all but disappear when the chill hits the air.
Many butterflies spend the winter as caterpillars while others enjoy a sleepy season as pupas. However, the Monarch butterfly, (Danaus plexippus), is not your typical floating insect friend. How so? They migrate south and west to escape cold weather. Usually this begins about October, but they will start migrating even earlier if the weather turns cold before then. Depending on their original habitat location, these butterflies will spend the winter hibernating in Mexico or in some parts of Southern California. If the Monarch lives in the Eastern regions of the United States, it will migrate to Mexico; seeking safe haven in oyamel fir trees (Abies religiosa.) However, if the Monarch butterfly originates from the west coast, then it will hibernate around Pacific Grove, California in eucalyptus trees (Myrtaceae.)
Why do the Monarchs come back to the east and west coasts during spring and summer months if its warm all year round in their hibernation destination?
There is actually a very good reason.
The Monarch needs to lays eggs in the Milkweed plant (Asclepias syriaca),which does not grow in their winter sites so the spring generation must travel back north where plants are plentiful. Keep your eyes peeled as these can grow right in your backyard!
Theres no need to travel south to Mexico to see the Monarch Butterflies; just flitter over to Butterfly Pavilion, open year round, to catch a glimpse of these beauties and other colorful creatures.
Have you noticed fewer butterflies floating around this time of year? Dont forget to tell us all about it on Facebook!