Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bon voyage, monarchs!

Who knows what a single monarch butterfly weighs. Who understands how such a creature can migrate thousands of miles – for instance, from Canada and the islands of Maine south and west to a mountainous area near Mexico City?

They “ride winds a thousand feet above the ground, covering 25 miles or more every day,” according to a Washington Post story in today's local paper. That’s almost more unimaginable – though evidently true.

To do it, the story reported, they “need water. They need flowers. They need nectar.” But this year, the monarchs’ route will include “a thousand miles of hell” – a.k.a. Texas – as they head for their Mexican retreat.

Texas is scorched and “nearly waterless, flowerless, nectarless,” right now. No matter how hardy and vigorous the monarchs are, there’s trouble in store for them in Texas. (No, they won’t change their route, which they’ve taken for thousands of years.)

As a result, there are serious questions about how many monarchs will make it to their over-wintering site, where traditionally they arrive “fat and happy, having gorged on nectar for thousands of miles.” That built-up fat helps them get through the winter and back north in the spring.

Usually, the monarchs “converge on a few acres of forest in mountains about 60 miles west of Mexico City. There they’ll roost over the winter, thick as quilts on fir trees.”

This year’s trip south could be another story if these amazing butterflies arrive thin and bedraggled -- and vulnerable.

1 comment:

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