Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies embark on a marvelous and unbelievable migratory phenomenon. They travel between up to 3000 miles from the northeast United States, and southeast Canada to the mountain forests in central Mexico, where they find the right climate conditions to hibernate from the beginning of November to mid-March. The monarch butterfly exhibits the most highly evolved migration pattern of any known species of butterfly or moth and perhaps any known insect.  Adult monarch butterflies possess two pairs of brilliant orange-red wings, featuring black veins and white spots along the edges. Males, who possess distinguishing black dots along the veins of their wings, are slightly bigger than females. Each adult butterfly lives only about four to five weeks.

Milkweed is the only plant on which monarchs will lay their eggs and the only source of food for baby caterpillars. But urban planning and agricultural expansion have paved and plowed over millions of acres of milkweed. Planting of Milkweed in a given area can help these amazing butterflies and other pollinators thrive. To help restore and attract the Monarch Butterfly, specifically for the Southwest Florida climate, one should strive to plant the Milkweed variants such as Butterfly Weed (well drained soil), Whorled Milkweed (prairies/open areas), White Milkweed (thickets, woodlands), Aquatic Milkweed (wet soil), Sandhill/Pinewoods Milkweed (dry sand soil)

Climate change threatens to disrupt the monarch butterfly’s annual migration pattern by affecting weather conditions in both wintering grounds and summer breeding grounds. Colder, wetter winters could be lethal to these creatures and hotter, drier summers could shift suitable habitats north.  2013 report from Mexico showed that the number of monarch butterflies wintering there was at its lowest in 20 years. The number is measured by the amount of forest they occupy, and in 2013 the number of butterfly acres decreased from approximately seven to three. Abnormal patterns of drought and rainfall in the U.S. and Canada breeding sites may have caused adult butterfly deaths and less plant food for caterpillars. Fewer butterflies up north mean fewer then migrate south to Mexico for the winter.

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