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.