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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Monarchs on the Move

As I gaze outside the office window at the Red Maple tree, patches of vibrant red leaves are beginning to appear and the tree’s shadow is filled with a sprinkling of red, orange, and yellow.  This is how I know that Monarchs will soon be migrating.  The phenology of the migrating monarch is also marked by the goldenrod that fills the fields at NBNC, and the asters that are soon-to-bloom.  In Vermont, the migration begins in late-August.  But it is the shortening day-length that tells the Monarchs it is time to fly south for the winter.

Monarch butterflies are perhaps the most recognizable butterflies to take wing in Vermont, but in recent years, there have been fewer than ever before.  The prolonged drought in the southwest, harsh storms on the Monarchs’ wintering grounds, and overall loss of habitat are all thought to be factors contributing to the Monarchs’ decline.  Fortunately, 2012 has fared better for Monarchs, and numbers are thought to be their highest in more than five years.  

Join NBNC every Wednesday afternoon through the end of September as we catch Monarch butterflies and tag them, in an effort to track their migration route.  If we are lucky, a Monarch we tag here at NBNC will be found in the mountains of central Mexico, thousands of miles away.  Each butterfly we tag, if recovered, will offer an opportunity to learn more about how Monarchs migrate and which paths they take on their journey.  A better understanding of how they migrate will allow us to better conserve these iconic butterflies for future generations.

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