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Monarch Butterfly

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Monarch Butterfly’s Reign
By
Mario Lopez
ITT Technical Institute
SC4730
Environmental Science
Mr. Ramirez
1/15/2015

According to National Geographic monarch butterflies travel up to 3,000 miles each fall to their wintering site in central Mexico. In 2004, an estimated 550 million completed the winter migration, while in 2003 only 33 million arrived. Further, between 2012 and 2013, there was a 43.7 percent decrease in the area occupied by the butterflies in the winter sanctuaries, the decline has numerous reasons: climate change, deforestation, and habitat loss, agricultural use of pesticides and herbicides
Monarch butterflies are known for the incredible mass migration that brings millions of them to California and Mexico each winter. North American monarchs are the only butterflies that make such a massive journey, the insects must begin this journey each fall ahead of cold weather, which will kill them if they tarry too long.
Monarch butterflies reflect ecosystem health and biodiversity, they are pollinators which make them very important for plan reproduction, and ecosystem sustainability. During the journey north, monarchs produce four generations, and share habitat with small birds and animals which feed larger birds and animals. Monarch butterflies begin life as eggs and hatch as larvae that eat their eggshells and, subsequently, the milkweed plants on which they were placed, short after that the larvae become juicy, colorful caterpillars, then create a hard protective case around themselves as they enter the pupa stage.
Although Monarch butterflies may well qualify as one of the most beautiful and majestic of butterflies in the planet today, entomologists, students and enthusiasts diligently persist with their studies to bring out several more interesting facts about them to the world. Here are some of those interesting data.
Habitat and Species
Among the two species of Monarch butterflies, the one in North America differs from the one you will find in South America, but the Caribbean is home to both species. You can also see them in Australia, New Zealand, and several islands between Australia and Tahiti, in parts of Europe and Hawaii.
The Metamorphoses
The Monarch butterflies go through prolonged stages of metamorphoses, starting with its larva or caterpillar, shedding or molting its skin an amazing five times before the pupa stage, right after they emerge as beautifully colored, black, orange and white adults, the colorful pattern makes monarchs easy to identify, and that distinctive pattern warns predators that the insects are foul tasting and poisonous.
Butterflies that emerge from pupa stage in late summer and early fall are different from those that do so during the longer days and warmer weather of summer. These monarchs are born to fly, and know because of the changing weather that they must prepare for their lengthy journey.
Only monarch born in late summer or early fall makes the migration, and they make only one round trip. By the next year’s winter migration begins, several summer generations will have lived and died and it will be the last year’s migrators’ great grandchildren that make the trip. Somehow these new generations know the way, and fallow the same routs their ancestors took sometimes even returning to the same tree.
According to National Geographic many scientists are concerned about the eastern population of monarchs, which summer east of the Rocky Mountains. This group is occurring in ever smaller numbers, and its survival may be threatened by a series of natural disasters in the Mexican wintering grounds, as well as by reduced acreage of milkweed plants in their summer home.
The Butterfly Life Cycle
According to National Geographic the four generations of these butterflies are constituted by 4 separate butterflies that complete the 4 unique phases in just one year. After this, they restart the same cycle, commencing with the primary stage of the first generation.
Stage 1
February and March: Locate a mate and search for an ideal place to lay their eggs
Stage 2
March-April: They lay their eggs on the leaves of milkweed plants. The larvae eat, grow and metamorphose into chrysalis.
Stage 3
May-June: The third generation butterflies live out a life-cycle like the first generation. They then perish about fifteen days after metamorphosing into spectacular adult butterflies.
Stage 4
This generation repeats the processes the other generations of Monarch butterflies underwent, but with the one crucial difference of traveling to California through Mexico to enjoy the warmer climate there. They live for six to eight months until they again get ready to undertake the return.
The Migration
How these butterflies take a particular direction for migration is an unsolved mystery of our generation. They fly at speeds ranging between 12 to 25 miles an hour. Similar to the migrating birds, the monarch butterflies use the clear advantage of updrafts of warm air, called thermals and glide as they migrate, to preserve the energy required for flapping their wings all the through the 3000 mile voyage from the Great Lakes in Canada to the warm Central Mexican Oyamel fir forest in the Michoacan hills. They rest there through winter and then complete their migration northwards in search of milkweed plants in the Eastern United States.
At the wintering sites in Mexico, they roost in the millions in huge groups in the trees. The females will lay their eggs on the milkweed leaves, and the cycle goes on until the next fourth generation starts the return migration to complete the cycle north in the spring.
An extension of 56.259 hectares, this biosphere reserve is located in the midst of mountains with lots of vegetation about 100 km northwest of the city of Mexico. The mountains of this biosphere reserve are home to a variety of microclimates and numerous endemic species of flora and fauna. Each autumn, millions from large areas of the North American Monarch butterflies nest in small areas of the forest of this reserve, staining their orange trees. Literally, the weight of so many butterflies even folds the branches. In the spring these butterflies begin a migration from eight months to all the eastern part of the Canada. For a period of four consecutive generations are born and die. Still ignored how manage to find their way to the place of hibernation.

Monarch butterflies serve as an important part of the food chain for a big community of birds, ants, flies, snakes, toads, rats, lizards, dragonflies, monkeys, frogs, and spiders. Monarch butterflies can travel between 50-100 miles a day; it can take up to two months to complete their journey to winter habitats, another unique fact of this beautiful insect is that they cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 86 degrees. They will sit in the sun or shiver their winds to warm up.
Going through my research I find out that no one is suggesting monarchs will become extinct. The concern is whether the annual migration will remain sustainable. According to (the National Butterfly Center in Texas), it should certainly get some attention and, the disappearance of milkweed nationwide needs to be addressed. If you want to have monarchs, you have to have milkweed.
Many people know milkweed, and many people like it, and people in abundances actively try to destroy it. The health of the monarch population is solely dependent on the milkweed plan, and the widespread use of herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans, which has resulted in the loss of more of 80 million acres of monarch habitat in recent years, also threatens the plan, according to the website monarch watch.
National Geographic scientists said that if the bees and monarchs butterflies were to truly disappear we would lose 80 percent of the plants, and that is not an option. That’s a huge problem for mankind.
Conservation and Preservation
I believe that the restoration of the monarch population is not going to be cheap or easy. Bringing back the monarch has to be a national effort, according to my research 99% of monarch eggs and caterpillars do not survive to become adult butterflies, it is necessary to ensure that monarchs are not threatened and survive so that the critical mass required to sustain their migrating and overwintering population is conserved and maintained.
How to Help
One of the easiest and most beautiful ways to help for the sustainability of the monarch population and their communities is to plant a milkweed garden in areas that lie along the migration route. The (IUCN) International Union for Conservation of Nature has designated the monarch migration a threatened phenomenon. In 1986, the Mexican government created the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve which protects 62 squere miles of forest in the Sierra Madres where hundreds of millions of monarchs spend each winter. The Biosphere Reserve was expanded to include 217 square miles in 2000. Local organizations are also working to stop the illegal harvesting of trees on the reserve to protect wintering habitat.

References http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/06/140624-monarch-butterfly-migration http://link.springer.com/article/10.100%2FBF01240595 http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Invertebrates/Monarch-Butterfly.aspx file:///E:/Mr.%20Ramirez%20E%20nvronmental%20Science/Instituto%20National%20de... http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/140129-monarch-butterflies-mexico-ani... http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2014/04/27monarch-butterflies-milkweed/8226397/

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