If you’ve ever seen a Monarch butterfly in person, you know how stunning and delicate they are. Unfortunately, their delicate nature leaves them extremely vulnerable when drastic weather changes and plant devastation occur.
Each spring Monarchs migrate approximately 3,000 miles from Mexico to Canada, flying 75 miles each day in 8-hour periods and making stops along their incredible journey to feed. In human terms, this journey would equal 450 million miles! A single butterfly can’t complete the full trip in its lifetime; instead, the Monarch migration spans three to four generations. What’s more fascinating is that each winter the Monarchs instinctively return to Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve without ever having been there before.
In recent years, experts from Texas A&M have noticed that Monarchs have experiencing a steady population decline and found that drought conditions, wildfires, colder temperatures and heavy rain may be to blame. National Geographic reported that nine butterfly colonies were discovered this year in just 2.94 acres of habitat in Mexico, a drastic drop from the 7.14 acres the Monarch populated last year. The unusual weather patterns are also affecting the milkweed plants, which are the key to a Monarch’s survival.
Milkweed plants serve as the butterflies’ feeding and breeding ground, as well as so much more. The butterflies use this humble plant as a safe place to lay their eggs, and when the Monarch caterpillars hatch, they eat the leaves of the milkweed plant. While the leaves of the milkweed plant are poisonous to other species, when the caterpillars eat them, the toxins transfer into their bodies, making the Monarchs poisonous to predators as well! Without this protection, Monarch butterflies would be eaten before going through metamorphosis.
But if these plants continue to disappear, so will the Monarchs.
So what can you do to help? Plant milkweed and other butterfly favorites in your garden! The Monarchs’ flight path runs through Indiana in the spring and summer, so not only will you be helping these incredible creatures on their journey, but you will also have beautiful butterflies right in your own backyard!
You can also show your support by heading to the IMAX Theatre at White River State Park for a showing of Flight of the Butterflies 3D, a stunning documentary about the Monarch migration that will leave you amazed.
And to see these and nearly 40 other breath-taking butterfly species in person, immerse yourself in the colorful and tropical world of Butterfly Kaleidoscope at White River Gardens.