Nature

Texas Hill Country Monarch Migration

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Texas Hill Country Monarch Migration

By Spring Sault

Arguably the most beautiful and majestic of butterflies, the monarch, has the longest migration of any of its kind. Twice annually, varying generations of this king of butterflies makes a 3 thousand-mile journey, leaving its roosts in Mexico in the spring to head north, and again returning from Canada in the fall, flying south for the winter. It is the latter journey that we’re in the midst of this week and into next, as reported by Journey North, a program and website funded by a division of the Annenburg Foundation. According to Journey North’s daily tracking of the monarch’s patterns, Hill Country, which is directly within its path, is poised to see the height of this migration through central and south Texas (a.k.a. the ‘Texas funnel’) throughout the month of October, 2015.

Texas Hill Country Monarch Migration

Photo: dallastrinitytrails.blogspot.ca

No one knows exactly how these butterflies follow their particular path along this bi-annual journey other than to hypothesize that through instinct alone they’ve come to successfully complete it year after year. Scientists have learned that through smell and vision, like all that possess these senses, the monarch can use these abilities to assess its environment. Its sense of sight has a broad spectrum in perception of colors and it has the capacity to perceive UV light; something which humans cannot. It has also been determined that its process of communication draws on colors and scents. Similar to birds, migrating monarchs make use of prevailing winds and warm updrafts of air called “thermals” to glide in an effort to preserve their energy – energy that’s needed to flap their wings (300-720 times per minute) throughout the long journey from the Great Lakes region in Canada to roosting sites in warm Michoacán, Mexico. Each winter, scientists measure the number of hectares (approx. 2.5 acres each) that the monarch butterflies occupy at these sites, and for each hectare occupied, it is estimated that there are 50 million monarchs.

Texas Hill Country Monarch Migration
Photo: photography.nationalgeographic.com

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