One of nature's great spectacles is the annual migration of Monarch butterflies for the winter. The life cycle of the Monarch's is one of nature's wonders.
Vital to the Monarch's life cycle is the common milkweed. It is where they lay their eggs, and provides food for the newly hatched larval stage, a colorful caterpillar. The caterpillar feeds voraciously on the milkweed before moving on to the pupa, or chrysalis stage. Inside, the caterpillar morphs into a fully-grown Monarch.
Monarch butterflies have declined in recent years, but concentrated effort to plant, and preserve, milkweed plants may be paying dividends. The numbers appear to be larger this year as they flutter through the Cameron area.
They appear fragile in flight, but their fluttering wings take them up to 3000 miles, including across part of the Gulf of Mexico. Their destination is a stand of Oyamel Fir trees located to the west of Mexico City where they will spend the winter in their millions.
But this is only the beginning of their amazing life cycle. Next spring the wintering Monarch will return to North America, timing their arrival to coincide with maturing milkweed plants.
They will mate, lay eggs and expire. The newly hatched will follow a cycle of mating, laying eggs, and dying. But then something amazing happens. The final hatch of the year, once mature, does not mate and lay eggs. Instead they make up next year's migration to the same Oyamel fir trees where their great grandparents wintered the year prior. How they find their way to the same exact forest is a mystery.
Sadly, many people fail to take note of the migration. The butterflies do not travel in great flocks. Each butterfly finds its own way. Next spring they will return to begin the cycle anew.
Planting and preserving milkweed plants provides them with the habitat to lay their eggs. Flowers provide food for the adults. Each of us can do a little to help this eons long process to continue.