Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
Nature’s Animal Ambassador
You may know that monarch butterfly populations east of the Rocky Mountains fly to sites in Mexico for the winter. But monarchs live in the west, too, and most of them overwinter in central and southern California.
One of the largest western overwintering sites is California’s Pismo State Beach Butterfly Grove. From late October through February, visitors can watch monarch butterflies clinging to the leaves and branches of giant eucalyptus trees. The butterflies are in hibernation, feeding little if at all and with their internal systems slowed down. The warmth of the sun wakes them partially, and some flutter from one spot to another. When storms threaten, the monarchs cluster on branches inside the grove where the trees help break up the heavy rain and the power of high winds.
Some may have left Canada in early September, arriving at the grove in October. They may have traveled 2,000 miles at a rate of 100 miles a day, flying as high as 10,000 feet above sea level. But it’s worth the journey. In this grove are conditions that suit them well—relative warmth, humidity, light and shade, and moderate temperatures as well as protection from stormy weather.
As weather warms and days grow longer, the winter monarchs will mate, then begin the journey northward. But these individuals don’t make it back home. The females lay their eggs on milkweed plants, then die. The eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars that grow so fast on their leafy diet that, as one website states, it’s like a human baby growing to the size of an adult gray whale in two weeks! The caterpillar pupates and emerges later as a new butterfly which mates and travels further north. This process continues for four or five generations, until summer fades with shortening days. Then the next generation of winter monarchs hatches, repeating the cycle. How does the information for this amazing cycle pass through the generations? No one knows.
Unfortunately, the western population of monarchs has declined drastically in recent years. Luckily, wherever you live, you can do things to help monarchs survive and thrive. Visit this site for more information.
The butterflies don't always stay in one place but flutter around now and then as you can see in this video.
Dorothy's new book has had rave reviews including one by Vicki Cobb. She went to Tasmania and saw what was happening. Now you can read the story.
For Vicki Cobb's BLOG (nonfiction book reviews, info on education, more), click here: Vicki's Blog
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