Brand new monarch butterflies are on their way to New England and this is some of their story:
The Monarch butterflies that left our northern climes to winter in Mexico mated in late February and early March. The females then started the last leg of their long journey to progress north and east to the southern United States in search of milkweed plants to lay their eggs.
The timing of this migration is crucial for the future generations. These monarchs that already survived many hazards during their long flight south in the fall are the individuals responsible for producing a new monarch generation. At the end of winter, they are the only monarchs in existence. If they return north too early, before the milkweeds emerge in the southern states, they will not be able to lay their eggs and continue the cycle. The migrating females search for milkweeds as they as they progress north. Once they find the plants and lay their eggs, the exhausted butterflies die. These eggs hatch and metamorphose into the adults that will head north to produce more generations of monarchs in their parents’ original homes.
This spring the monarchs have already made great progress north, there are reporting of some of them reaching the Canadian Province of Ontario already. Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have also reported Monarch sightings. This is probably due to the warm weather and strong southerly winds. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas were the sites that reported hatch out of these new Monarchs.
During the summer there may be up to four generations of summer monarchs. These have a life span of three to four weeks, much shorter than their ancestors that migrated the previous fall. There few generations over a short summer build the monarch population up to the millions of individuals who will migrate south continuing the cycle
To see more about monarch progress, view up to date maps of sightings throughout North America and learn about other spring migrations go to http://www.learner.org/jnorth/current.html
Monarchs need food sources to complete their journeys and lifecycles. Unfortunately, due to development and broad use of herbicides, milkweeds and nectars sources necessary for Monarchs are in decline. Monarch Watch has information on how to make Monarch Waystation Habitats. http://www.monarchwatch.org/waystations/
Monarch Waystations are places that provide resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. Waystations fit in backyards, schools, parks, roadsides, business anywhere there is a little open space.