If you are a bug nerd like me, you have probably been following the progress of the Monarchs this summer. Or maybe you enjoy Monarchs and no other bugs, either way, this is an exciting time for the butterflies. I have included a few videos below from sources around Michigan who are also super geeked about Monarchs. The videos are not in chronological order, which is interesting in itself–while many Monarch butterflies are emerging from eggs that were laid in June, there is another generation of caterpillars that is just hatching (we have Micky at the office that hatched this past Sunday). The videos show the last instar of a Monarch caterpillar as an eating machine, the process of cocoon creation, and the beauty of emerging after 10-14 days of transformation from wiggly, striped caterpillar to bright orange, majestic butterfly.
Monarch butterflies, their migration, and their loss of habitat have been big topics lately, for several reasons.
- There is a current campaign to make the Monarch butterfly the State Insect. Yes, the same as we have a state bird, tree, flower, wildflower, stone, gem, reptile, fish, fossil, game mammal, and soil (really?). Why is there a state soil and no state insect? I have nothing against Kalkaska sand, especially since the area I live is quite rich with it, but insects are much more fascinating than dirt. Also, how did rocks get two representatives?
- Many insect pollinators are declining and a major reason (per research, not just hear-say) is due to the loss of habitat. I don’t really want to get into the details here, but the Monarch is a recognizable symbol to represent all pollinators. Every campaign needs a pretty face, or at least a lovable personality.
- While many other insects can utilize several different plants, Monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed. The eggs are laid on the plant and the caterpillars eat until they are so fat they have to turn into a butterfly. This point goes back to the loss of habitat, but it is even more important for Monarchs than for many of the other insect pollinators because they are so specific. Talk about a picky eater!
- Their migration is a scientific marvel, trust me, I’ve done the research. How does a 5th generation Monarch know to travel south for the winter? That’s right–the generation that travels north in the spring is not the same generation that will travel south in October. 4 other generations grow up, have babies, and die before the migrating generation is born. Birds will migrate each year–the same bird–and that bird teaches it’s young to do the same. However, a Monarch butterfly’s knowledge is passed on through genes rather than hand holding and teachable moments. Amazing, to say the least.
Want to tag your own Monarch and track it’s travel south in the fall and back north in the spring? Join Missaukee Conservation District on August 25th for a Monarch tagging event! Call for more details: 231.839.7193.