Thursday, November 20, 2008
(Photo: Butterflies at the Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Reserve courtesy of the owner.) © Adam R. Paul)
When Pacific Grove school children parade through the streets this weekend to welcome monarch butterflies back for the winter, they won't be welcoming the same ones that were here last year. This year's monarchs will be the great-grandchildren of the ones that left in February and March. While the wintering generation lives six to eight months – feeding, riding trade winds and mating -- the four or five generations in between live only three to six weeks each. There is much mystery in it, and the Ventana Wildlife Society has been tagging butterflies recently to learn more. Soon after the wintering generation leaves the Central Coast for homes as far away as Canada, they deposit eggs on milkweed plants and die. The second generation lives a few weeks then deposits eggs and dies, as does the third and sometimes fourth. Then the next generation eats heartily to get ready for the winter trip to the coast.
(Video: Monarch butterflies in Pacific Grove)