The World Wildlife Fund has put out a list of Ten Species to Watch in 2010. On the list with tigers, polar bears, mountain gorillas, and giant pandas, among others, are monarch butterflies. Their fate is tied to their habitat being destroyed by natural disasters and industrial development, affecting breeding patterns.
Every year millions of monarchs leave their locations and travel thousands of miles to Mexico or California to the overwintering site where they will reside until the following Spring. (Envision a forest of pine trees that are completely covered in monarchs!) How do they know how to get from Michigan or Kansas down to the same spot in Mexico every year? That is THE question, and it has been well studied for years. Not only is their migration fascinating, but their complete life cycle is as well.
To read up on the monarch butterfly, AADL has you all set with a list of books. For the younger set I recommend Monarchs, and The Monarch's Progress: Poems With Wings. For the adults, a real winner is Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the butterflies of passage, by Robert Michael Pyle. For more info, MonarchWatch.org is an excellent source for all things monarch, whether you’re a student, a teacher, or a life long learner.
When you see those orange beauties flying in the sky this Summer, or perhaps perched on some milkweed, give them a second look.