Today is National Learn About Butterflies Day!
My public school education meant that we learned a lot about the butterfly life cycle in science classes. But what about monarch butterfly migration? I don’t remember much about that, so my memory failed me, or we simply didn’t learn it. Which lead me to an interesting experience many years ago.
In 2003, we bought a house on a few acres in west Tennessee. We were surrounded by farmland, though our property had some trees. We set up big double hammock underneath a massive pecan tree and I used to lie in it while the kids toddled around or cuddled with me. One afternoon I noticed a small orange spot flying above me. I stared at it and saw that it was a butterfly. It was flying quite high (above the top of the pecan tree) and quite fast. I marveled at it, but didn’t think much about it. But then there was another. And another. And another. They came in regular intervals and flew almost in a line right across our property and over the pecan tree.
Now I was curious. I thought perhaps they were going somewhere close and so I gathered up my three babies and we started following the butterflies across the empty field next to the house. And the butterflies kept coming. They were flying faster than we were walking, but had I broken into a run, they would have still beat me. We walked as far as we could manage, but it became clear that the butterflies weren’t landing. They were still flying high and fast.
Back at the house, I hit up Google. That’s when I learned what I had been so ignorant of- monarch butterflies migrate across the North American continent from as far north as Canada to where they winter in Mexico and Southern California. Our house just happened to be one of the main thoroughfares on their fall trek down south. I took note of the date- it was around Labor Day, the first Monday of September and also the weekend closest to my wedding anniversary- and sure enough, like clockwork, they flew by every year.
The other thing I learned about monarchs is their wings are toxic. The bright orange coloring is a warning and a threat. So birds and other insects have learned and evolved to leave them alone. Equally, and perhaps more, fascinating is that the viceroy butterfly has evolved to look so much like the monarch, they avoid predators, too. Thing is, the viceroy might not actually be poisonous, but it looks like it is to birds.
For my 44th birthday present, I’m putting together a gallery wall of flora and fauna that is special to me. Of course, the monarch butterfly will have to be part of that collection. I’ve been favoriting some photographs and prints here.
Additionally, I have a lot of butterfly brooches. Unfortunately no monarchs or viceroys and it’s supposed to blizzard here tomorrow so I won’t be able to wear any of them out and about, but I really like a lot of these.