The sky has been alive with butterflies since last week. It's the time of year when the monarchs stop by the island on their way to Mexico. Usually they don't get here until October but I hear that the cold weather has hit a little early up north.( Sorry about that) These particular monarchs are called Gulf Fritillarys. They're a smaller cousin to the monarch you're used to seeing. If there's anything blooming around the house, they're on it.
This peninsula is a good stopping point because they can go to the farthest tip and catch a breeze that will carry them the shortest distance across the water to Mexico.
Monarchs are the only insect that will migrate up to 2500 miles to get out of the cold weather. They don't like the cold any better than I do! But no single monarch will make the entire round trip. They only fly during the day so the trip may take two or three months and monarchs born the first part of the summer only live for about two months. But the last generation of the summer will live about seven months in a non-reproductive state and they're the ones that make the trip south. The second, third, and fourth generations will make the trip back up north.
According to the WWF the monarch butterfly is one of the ten most threatened species of butterflies. There's about 20,000 different species. But the monarch's numbers are declining even more due to the lack of food and the pesticides being used on their nesting grounds.
The over wintering population is also at an all time low due to the use of pesticides in corn fields and other places that you might find the milkweed plant. Milkweed is their main food source that gives them the strength and energy to make the long trip. Loosing the pollinator butterfly is endangering native plants which in turn trickles on down to the food supply. This is just one of nature's delicate balances that we're interfering with more and more..
When spring arrives along with warmer weather, the butterflies become productive and lay their eggs, and the trip back north begins. The fall migration to the south is made by one generation and the trip back is made by several generations.
Here's the really unique part of their migration. The butterflies that fly south in the winter have never been to their winter home yet they'll return to the exact same tree or bush that the generations before them had been to. They have inherited these flight patterns from previous generations. It's still being researched but scientist believe that This, combined with using the earths magnetic field for orientation and the positioning of the sun in the sky for direction, they are able to get to the exact same place as generations before them.
They truly are an amazing creature and beautiful to see in such large numbers I'm glad they've made St. George Island one of their stops.
But they don't stay long. I started writing this post not even a week ago and the number of monarchs around the house and all over the island has decreased. It was nice while it lasted.