Monday, September 26, 2022

Monarch migration


As always, click the photo to enlarge

The boughs of a Norway Spruce drip with resting Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). There were about a thousand butterflies present here during my September 11 visit. This site is a bit west of Columbus, Ohio, and has apparently played host to the butterflies during their autumnal passage for several years. A dense row of spruce provides shelter, and nearby hayfields are lush with flowering clover.

Monarch migration has picked up steam in the past few weeks. I've seen them daily, although generally not in large numbers. A few are in my yard every day, and I often see some high overhead, heading on a southwest trajectory. A visit to a large fen complex south of Columbus last Saturday produced dozens of the insects. These Monarchs were especially smitten with the flowers of Spotted Joe-pye (Eutrochium maculatum).

A lone Monarch wings over a clover field. The hardy insect still has about 2,000 miles to travel, to reach its wintering grounds in Oyamel Fir forests in central Mexico. It may have already flown hundreds of miles to reach this point in central Ohio.

Human activities have generally not been kind to this long-haul insect. Barriers and threats from chemicals to automobiles to habitat destruction have thrown innumerable wrenches in their travel plans. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently added the Monarch to its endangered list. Although Monarch numbers yo-yo from year to year, there is no question the overall decline has been precipitous in recent years. I would note that the status of this iconic butterfly probably also reflects the human condition. If we manage to quash this species, it's yet another in a long list of human-caused extinctions, and yet more evidence of poor treatment of the planet that we all depend upon. The piper must always be paid, and pay we will someday.

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