I continue to search for illusive answers about the monarch butterfly. So far the best source I’ve found is a big beautiful book called The Amazing Monarch by Windle Turley. The book has absolutely stunning photographs, interspersed with quotes about the Monarch butterfly. Most interesting to me was the handful of pages at the end telling about the Monarch lifecycle. These pages have an abundance of endnotes, which I appreciate, though I had to smile at how parts of it were written.It has a paragraph about butterfly mating, but ends with “Male monarch butterflies are also known for their frequent confusion of the male and female at mating.” This left me smiling but also wondering, is it confusion or is it bisexuality? Do insects take pleasure in breeding, I wonder? I smile also at the connection between breeding and growing old and dying. Our children age us too, don’t they?
The butterfly chases the milkweed North, following to newer and fresher milkweed. Then apparently it is the decrease in light that changes the butterfly’s production of juvenile hormone levels, suspending breeding and encouraging a flight South. Around Texas they increase their nectar increase converting it to lipids to feed on through the winter. Light – particularly polarized UV light – is also believed to be essential for the butterflies internal compass.
I wonder if global climate change will make the monarch’s flight impossible with its dependence upon a temperature-based food source and a light-based internal clock and compass. The book mentions global climate change more in the context of increased cool weather percipitation (I think that means wet winters) at the monarch’s winter home. Amazing Monarchs also acknowledge the threat that logging, GMO corn and cars pose to the monarch. It tries to offer hope in references to the ability fo the monarch population to bounce back after bad bad years, but it also acknowledges that many experts predict the collapse of the monarch population within the next 20 – 50 years. Ouch. I wish there was more individuals could do to help the monarchs.
Probably the thing I love most about this book is the author’s willingness to use the big words. Using words like Transverse Neovolcanic Mountains instead of just “Mexican wintering home” allows me to do google-searches and learn more. But the amazing stunning pictures of an uncountable numbers of butterflies is a close second. The author is an amazing photographer.