I wrote earlier about the amazing migration of the monarch butterfly. This tiny creature does the same trek of thousands of miles each year even though their lifetimes are so short that any given butterfly will do it only once.
This website gives more information.
Some monarch butterflies are able to fly for a migration of 2500 miles. Most of them can find their ways to their ancestors’ winter homes when they go there, and then find their ways back to the places they left in spring. This ability made them seem like the strongest, smartest, and toughest of all butterflies. In much of their range they are also the biggest butterflies, with wingspans up to four inches (10cm).
Monterey is one of the stopping points on the migration between parts of the USA and Mexico. There is a monarch butterfly sanctuary here where they wait out the winter.
The Monarch butterflies that come to Monterey County are a special generation of butterfly. While most Monarchs live only four to five weeks after they reach adulthood, the generation that overwinters in Monterey County lives up to six months. Even more incredible, scientists still aren’t sure how each new migrating generation knows the way to warm weather spots.
Every October, thousands of butterflies make a stop in a Pacific Grove eucalyptus grove, the preferred Monarch butterfly habitat, during their migration to warmer climates. The butterflies hang in clusters from eucalyptus branches to maintain body temperature, and the resulting effect is stunning.
There had been some alarm as the numbers had been dropping precipitously over the last few years. It was feared that climate change had adversely affected their existence. But this year has seen a comeback.
I paid a visit to the sanctuary a couple of weeks ago. To be quite honest, I would not use the word ‘stunning’ to describe what one sees. If you go expecting to see a riot of black and orange butterflies flying around, you will be disappointed. These butterflies are not here to put on a show but to rest up before the next leg of their grueling journey. They conserve their energy by folding their wings and hanging together in clusters from branches. They look like bunches of dried leaves hanging in the trees, as in the photo on the right.
So while not spectacular to see, I felt that I needed to pay my respects to these plucky little critters who are so vulnerable to the changes brought about by climate change.