By Brooke Shirley
Monarch Butterflies are best known for their color pattern of black, orange, and white are one of the most beloved species of North American butterflies. The play a huge roll in pollinating flowers and are known for their annual migration across the United States. In the late summer months and early autumn, the eastern North American monarch population migrates to Mexico. Those from the northern and central United States east of the Rocky Mountains are the ones we spot in Louisiana. During the fall migration, monarchs cover thousands of miles to Mexico before returning to the north.
Most people wonder what the cause of the migration is and Zach Lemann, curator of animal collections at the Audubon Butterfly Garden Insectarium, was able to give a little insight saying, “We know that the ancestors of monarchs were tropical, so even though time has enabled this species to expand it’s range northward, the physical ability of monarchs to remain in cold places did not follow along.” They migrate as an evolutionary strategy triggered by changes in day length and temperature.
Their route is directly tied to dietary requirements for their young because much like human children, monarch babies are really picky eaters. Milkweeds, in particular, are their favorite meal and provide a good place for the adults to lay their eggs. Although there are many places that have milkweeds growing about, the environmental conditions must provide a safe place for winter survival hence the migration to the mountains in Mexico.
If you find yourself outside this fall, pay attention to the majestic butterflies soaring through the air because if you spot a monarch, you’ve then witnessed one of the most mysterious and astounding acts of nature in the insect world.