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Friday, 14 October 2011

Monarch Butterflies in Nova Scotia

This tiny, yet beautiful, insect can perform a migration flight of thousands of kilometres, navigating unerringly to reach a place it has never seen. For instance, some monarchs fly from Nova Scotia, Canada to the mountains west of Mexico City, some 5,000 kilometres  in all. Not just to the very same place to which their forefathers migrated, but each one often to the very same tree!
Monarch butterflies can fly in still air at a speed of around 50 kilometres per hour, and considerably faster with a tail wind. They usually fly close to the ground, but have been found as high as 3,500 metres. They have been known to fly more than 600 kilometres over water non-stop in 16 hours. Their 5,000 kilometre migration takes them eight to ten weeks, travelling only in daylight.
Monarchs can be taken hundreds of kilometres off course and still find their way to their destination. How do they perform this amazing feat? To this day, no scientist knows for certain.
The monarch butterfly is the only insect known to migrate annually over major continental distances. There are two basic migrating groups on the North American continent. The Eastern population is based east of the Rockies; some 300 million of these butterflies migrate from as far north as northern Nova Scotia to about 13 sites covering 25 hectares (40 acres) in the Neovolcanic Mountains in Mexico (some 250–50 km west of Mexico City). Individual trees can harbour as many as 100,000 monarch butterflies at a time, while sites can contain as many as 50 million.

Monarchs fill the skies and touch our hearts
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