Migrating monarch butterflies fly to California

By EMILY BLOMQUIST

As it is warming up in California many have began to notice that there are butterflies flying everywhere. At school students stand around the quad admiring the beautiful insects, and videotaping them as they flutter around. The reason for the sudden flood of butterflies  is because the season for butterfly migration has begun.

The Monarchs migrate in groups that can have around 1,000 butterflies, they do this to facilitate warmth during travel to other lands. Monarch butterfly from the California Science Center rainforest exhibit. (BRANDON SAGLAM/ Ethic Photo)

Monarch butterflies go through four stages in their life. According to the website, Monarch Butterfly, they begin their life in March and April by hatching from an egg as larvae. After two weeks have gone by, the larvae have fully grown into caterpillars and begin the process of metamorphosis. The caterpillars attach themselves onto a tree branch and wrap into a silk form called a chrysalis. After ten days, the caterpillar emerges from its wrap as a Monarch butterfly. Once caterpillars turn into butterflies, they migrate to Mexico in the winter to seek food and warm shelter. This first generation of butterflies then lays eggs and dies, bringing in the second generation of butterflies in May and June to continue the same life cycle.

The website Butterflysite discusses why Monarch butterflies migrate every season. They do so to find new sources of food and a warmer climate. The Monarch butterflies are the only butterflies that do two-way migration. Butterflies from Eastern North America fly to the mountains of Sierra Madre in Mexico, while butterflies from Western North America land in California. The Monarch butterflies then spend the winter in the Oyamel forest. They migrate to this spot due to the high humidity that keeps their wings from drying out. They use the magnetic pull of the earth and the position of the sun to direct themselves to where they want to migrate.

The Monarchs migrate to California because, as cold-blooded creatures, they cannot handle the extreme coldness. They also migrate because of their food; when the flowers and other plant species die in the winter, they need to go to a new place to maintain their influx of food.

An additional reason as to why the butterflies migrate is to create new colonies. When migrating, the butterflies find the same type of trees, which are eucalyptus, to settle into once in California. As it is beginning to heat up, the butterflies begin to populate in California and Mexico to gather food and stay alive.

Lastly, these butterflies have the advantage against their predators when traveling because of their wings. Their camouflage wings allow them to blend into the ground and trees to stay safe from their predators.

These beautiful insects are everywhere. Each new season of migration brings about a new generation of Monarch butterflies.



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