Thursday, September 10, 2009

The greatest generation

The migration begins. In some places in Nebraska large numbers can be seen in the waning hours of daylight. Farmers say entire trees turn orange as resting butterflies spread their wings to catch the last warm rays of the sun. What a wonderful sight that must be.


Somehow this generation of monarchs knows it is time to leave the place of their birth and make the seemingly impossible journey to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico.


Normally monarchs only live a few weeks but the generation born in the fall will travel as far as three thousand miles to Mexico and wait there through the winter. In the spring they will return to the United States. Their offspring will then finish the trip and repopulate the areas where their parents were born.


One of nature's most amazing stories. These tiny creatures with tissue paper wings will fly thousands of miles to a place they have never been before. Nothing but the whispers of a million ancestors to guide them there and back.


The caterpillars above (five total) spent a week or more eating my ascelpias tuberosa (butterfly weeds) and then left the plants hopefully to form a chrysalis in which to be transformed into beautiful creatures. This is the stuff fairy tales are made of.


The greatest adventure lies before them fraught with terrible dangers. The future of the species rests on their tiny wings. Good luck and safe journey.

37 comments:

CONEFLOWER said...

What a fantastic story and so beautifully told, Marnie. Thank you! And with such wonderful photos to make the story even better.

Beautiful!

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

I've always been fascinated by monarchs. They also leave en masse from Point Pelee, Ontario, maybe an hour from us in Ann Arbor. I think, though, it's largely the the babies of those who flew to Mexico who return to the US in spring, not the same adults who left. Fascinating, in any case.

Sherri said...

Marnie, thanks for sharing this. Monarch are definitely one of natures wonderful creatures! They are absolutely beautiful!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Coneflower, it is a very romantic story isn't it? I believe butterflies are what inspired the myths of flying faeries.

Hi Monica, I'd love to visit Pt Pelee and see them. Actually the same monarchs live in the forests of the Mexican mountains thru the winter until about February when they breed and only the females return to the US to lay eggs and die. Those progeny complete the cycle by moving further north.

Hi Sherri, I agree. No science fiction writer could think up a more romantic plot.

Marnie

Kathleen said...

You relayed their miraculous journey so beautifully Marnie. It is truly one of the many wonders of nature. If anything goes wrong, it could spell disaster ~ I think that even about migrating songbirds. But you're right, at least they have more substantial wings. My neighbor is a renowned butterfly expert ~ he's written identification books, etc. ~ so they frequently travel to Mexico in the winter and return with pictures of trees covered in Monarchs. It's really an incredible sight and I imagine even more so in person. I wish them a safe journey as well and I hope next year, there are more in my garden!

beckie said...

Marnie, beautiful! Your photos are delightful as is your story tellng. I love the phrase, "whispers of a million ancestors." It brings such vivid imags to mind.

I hope we get to see a few more here now that they are migrating. It has been a pretty butterflyless summer.

ChrisND said...

That was a nice story...I would like to witness them roosting once. We get a few here, but I don't think they roost up here. I like watching the siting maps and virtually see them go south (and north).

Rosey Pollen said...

Marnie,
Splendid photos! Have you ever hatched one of these inside? My brothers used to hatch these in their bedroom and then let them free. I always loved the little gold "filigree" on their cocoons.
Thanks for sharing this story about Monarchs.
Rosey

JC said...

Way Cool Photos ...

sweet bay said...

Wonderful post Marnie. Beautiful writing and beautiful photos. Nature is a miraculous thing, isn't it?

ShySongbird said...

Marnie what a really beautiful post about this stunning creature, your lovely photos and words have truly done it justice.

Thank you so much, an exquisite post :)

ShySongbird said...

Hi again Marnie :) I was so moved by your post that I looked them up on Wikipedia where their annual migration cycle is described as 'the most spectacular in the insect world'. Apparently they can travel between 50 and 100 miles a day and it can take up to two months to complete their journey!! What a humbling thought that is, Nature just takes my breath away!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Kathleen, how wonderful to have a neighbor that knows so much about butterflies. (The only expert I know wrote a book about north American river shellfish--not my favorite topic;)

Beckie, me too. We had almost none this summer.

Hi Chris, I'm just getting into the siting maps.

Rosey, I haven't. I didn't even do it with these caterpillars altho maybe I should have to make sure they were safe.

Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi JC, thank you.

SweetBay it is nothing less than a miracle.

ShySongbird, to me it is unbelievable that these tiny creatures can fly up to 3000 miles. They are so fragile it seems impossible. Even the little hummingbirds who do the same are more substantial than a butterfly.

Marnie

Carol said...

Very lovely post in gorgeous photos and the telling of this amazing story. Alas! I am experiencing the first year out of over twenty where I have no Monarchs. Blame it on the rain as it kept the butterflies away in late may when they arrive and lay eggs! It seems they just had to change their course. Lucky you for having all these to watch and photograph. Lucky us for seeing and reading your post.

tina said...

I would so love to see these caterpillars here in my garden. They are so pretty and mystifying. Last year there was a special on PBS called "Nature-the Migration" or something like that. It was really something to see how far these guys travel. Just amazing.

Cameron (Defining Your Home) said...

Marnie...

So glad to see your Monarchs! Thanks for sharing the info about these magnificent and amazing butterflies. Hope all of your cats make it.

Cameron

Dawn said...

Just as my sister said, I once watched a show on pbs and I've never forgotten it. All the butterflies in this one tree flying off at once, so beautiful, and so free spirited. (like every butterfly) We get a mock monarch every once in a while, missing the big white spots I think. I know it's not a monarch because of my, sometimes, naughty cats! Although they have tasted a monarch, ever see a feline spit?

Mary Delle said...

You are so lucky to have the monarchs. They are dream-like, as I so rarely see them in the city.

Racquel said...

Farewell to our flying friends. What a trip they have ahead of them. :)

oldcrow61 said...

Imagine seeing a tree full of Monarchs. It must be a fantastic sight.

Rose said...

What a beautiful post, Marnie! I remember watching a documentary last year about the migration of the monarchs to the little village in Mexico. It was fascinating and amazing that these creatures could fly thousands of miles just by instinct. Your photos are beautiful--the monarchs here fly through each day, but never seem to light anywhere that I can take a picture. I'm just glad to see them.

Susie said...

It is amazing to think of what all they must go thru on their flight.

Lovely post Marnie!

Gayle @ Mountain Moma said...

I enjoy the symbolism in the butterfly of life after death. They seem to die, yet they live and are transformed and can fly.

BeadedTail said...

Such a beautiful story and I just love the photos! Monarchs are just so magical to me.

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

An absolutely amazing post, Marnie! I was so caught up in your pictures and words woven together so well. Wouldn't it be an unbelievable experience to see a tree glowing with Butterflies?

Balisha said...

Hi Marnie,
One year the monarchs spent the night in our maple trees. The trees were covered with orange tissue paper butterflies. The trees looked like they had fall leaves on them. My husband sat in the yard and they were landing all over him. What a sight!

Msrobin said...

I just love monarchs and their story. What pretty pictures you took! I have a small monarch post coming soon too. I dearly love butterflies and hummingbirds, and most everything I grow is planted to attract them.

Gail said...

marnie, It is magical, mysterious and miraculous how the genetic material is programed for their journey!! Thank you for telling their story so beautifully. Your butterfly (and bird) photos are always excellent! Have a good weekend, may you see many monarchs! gail

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Marnie, You take such clear, gorgeous, sharp pictures. I'm SO impressed. I love photography--but have never worked hard at it before. I have alot to learn in order to get mine as 'sharp' as yours. (Of course, my bird pictures are all taken from inside looking out of the glass doors.. SO that doesn't help!!!! ha)

Beautiful butterflies.
Hugs,
Betsy

Tyra in Vaxholm said...

Exquisite Marnie, we haven't got it here unfortunately.

Have a great weekend /Tyra

Darla said...

It's totally amazing~~~

Sunita said...

I totally agree about the fairy tales part. Its 'Cinderella' and 'The Ugly Duckling' and 'The Beauty and The Beast' all rolled into one!
Your Monarchs look so much like our Striped Tigers!

Sweet Repose said...

One of my faves, but I've hardly seen any this year, last year we were swarming with them, however, I am seeing tons of honey bees right now, storing up for the long freeze and that makes me smile...the bees, not the wretched winter...but what must be, must be!!!

Have a great sunny weekend Marnie!

sharon

Kerri said...

I loved this post, Marnie..you captured some wonderful shots of the monarch and caterpillars, and your narration is the icing on the cake.
This is a great post for teaching. I'm going to send the link to my grandsons. They learn about butterflies at school, but your description is so beautifully written.

Judy said...

Marnie, I love the photos, and the words you chose to write the story! I have not seen one monarch or caterpillar all summer! I think it would be heaven to see them migrating!!

joey said...

What a joy visiting again, Marnie ... always a delight! So enjoyed the photos and story of your pet swallowtails. I too love stone jewely (surprise, surprise ... since we share many similar interests). Keep up the fine work at your class ... love what you have created!