Western Monarch Day
"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)
The Western Monarch is one of the world's most recognizable butterflies. Each year in the fall, monarchs undergo a mass generational migration from their summering locations along the West Coast of North America, riding the air currents more than 3000 miles back to Mexico to overwinter. They navigate by calibrating their body clocks with the position of the sun (with an internal magnetic compass to help them navigate on cloudy days). Monarchs are one of the few creatures on earth that are known to orient themselves both in latitude and longitude - a feat sailors couldn’t accomplish easily until the 1700s. 🦋
By designer Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan reflects the brilliant colors of the Western Monarch butterfly.
The Western Monarch (Danaus plexippus) may be the most familiar North American butterfly, with its easily recognizable black, orange, and white wing pattern.
The North American monarch population is notable for its annual southward late-summer/autumn migration from the United States and southern Canada to Mexico. During the fall migration, monarchs cover thousands of miles, with a corresponding multi-generational return north.
Monarchs have even been transported to the International Space Station and bred there.
In both caterpillar and butterfly form, monarchs are aposematic - warding off predators with a bright display of contrasting colors to warn potential predators of their undesirable taste and poisonous characteristics.
Monarchs are foul-tasting and poisonous due to the presence of compounds from milkweed ingested during their caterpillar phase.
Monarchs share the defense of noxious taste with the similar-appearing viceroy butterfly in what is perhaps one of the most well-known examples of mimicry. Though long purported to be an example of Batesian mimicry, the viceroy is actually reportedly more unpalatable than the monarch, making this a case of Müllerian mimicry.
Flight of the Butterflies is a 2012 Canadian documentary film covering Dr. Fred Urquhart's nearly 40-year-long scientific investigation into the monarch butterfly, tracking the details of what is considered one of the longest known insect migrations, the flight of the monarch butterfly from Central Mexico to the United States and Canada and back.
To see a stunning trailer for this beautiful film, click the Monarch!