Thirsty work

There and back again – the incredible journey of monarchs

By Alex Bunten | The Charlotte News

Did you know that monarch butterflies are the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration? They are like birds in this respect. Their life cycle starts in Mexico and parts of California where overwintered adults lay eggs in spring, fly north and somehow get back to the south by autumn. Unlike birds, however, it takes four generations for monarchs to get from Mexico to our backyard in Vermont.

Generations one, two and three mate, lay eggs and die within two to six weeks as they travel north, each generation taking a dent out of the whole journey. The last generation, born closer to northern United States and Canada, lives from six to eight months and flies all the way back to Mexico. Monarchs can fly 50 to 100 miles a day. Back in Mexico, they hibernate until it’s time to start the process all over again in spring.

This all neglects to mention that they are seen as one of the most attractive butterflies in the world—hence the name monarch and surely one reason they are Vermont’s official state butterfly.

All the travel monarchs undertake explains why the individual I photographed (below and right) was not bothered by my very close proximity—it was too busy quenching four generations of thirst from a mini-puddle between the stones on my driveway.

It’s worth remembering that Monarch populations have been in serious decline in recent years. So if you like seeing these beautiful creatures, where possible try not to cut your milkweed.