About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Monarch migration route

Bugs like birds have a lot of ways to survive the winter. Monarch Butterflies actually migrate south. The first Monarch you see in the spring may be the grandchild of the last Monarch you saw in the fall.

Monarchs begin their migration to Mexico in late summer. Monarch Butterflies drink nectar from flowers and produce 3-4 broods of offspring per year. The first and second generation will breed and lay eggs and die in two weeks. The last generation of Monarchs that hatch in September or October are special butterflies. They migrate thousands of miles to Mexico and live 6-9 months until spring. Then these special monarchs start to fly north, mate, and lay eggs.

During spring migration north, a female monarch leaves a trail of eggs behind her as she travels. The eggs will become adult butterflies and complete the migration to Michigan later in the spring. They will be the offspring of the monarchs that lived in Michigan and then spent the winter in Mexico.

The black and orange Monarch Butterfly is one of the easiest butterflies to recognize in Michigan. They actually start out from an egg about the size of a sesame seed. Females lay the eggs under milkweed plants. The eggs hatch 4 to 10 days later depending on the temperature. Tiny little larva or caterpillars emerge and begin eating milkweed.

The more they eat the more they grow but instead of their skin stretching like ours, when it gets too tight, they shed the old skin like a shell. The Monarch caterpillar will go through this molting process about four times. When fully grown the yellow, black and white striped caterpillar will be about two inches long.

Next the grown caterpillar attaches itself head down by a dot of silk, sheds its skin for the last time and over the next couple of hours forms into a chrysalis. Green like a leaf, the pupa transforms itself in two weeks into a butterfly and emerges from the chrysalis.

To find the answers to more frequently asked questions about Monarch Butterflies go to the Journey North website: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/search/MonarchNotes3.html#33
Monarch migration route
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