“Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit quietly, may alight upon You.” Nathaniel Hawthorne
I have always been enthralled by butterflies. If they come into view, I stop to watch as they flit from flower to flower or hover over the garden, keeping just out of reach. A friend always said her brother—when he was little—called them “flutterbys!” Sounds right to me. They are beautiful, delicate, ethereal. They come in all colors and sizes, but most are cagey enough to not let me photograph them. Here are a few that I have been able to capture in a picture:
However, it is the Monarch Butterfly that really fascinates me. A couple of times my dad and I have visited Pacific Grove, CA, one of the wintering sites for Monarchs as they travel on their annual migration. It is absolutely amazing to see thousands of these gorgeous butterflies covering trees while they hibernate. On a cloudy day, you might miss them as they keep their wings folded to keep warm, so they look a lot like clumps of leaves. The days we were there were more overcast than sunny, so our sightings were not as glorious as they might have been—but they amazed us!
See how easily they disappear:
But if you look closer, you can find them:
And sometimes you find them in the sunshine:
Learning the details about these beautiful insects and their life cycle just adds to the wonder of their existence. Talk about marvels of nature! There is a terrific website aptly named Monarch Butterfly Website that gives all the information you could ever want about Monarch Butterflies. The site allows people to copy and distribute their articles and materials, as long as appropriate credit is given. They share things like terrific photos—see below—as well as news items, coloring pages, and ways to help, raise and release these magnificent creatures yourself.
From what I have learned, Monarch Butterflies are the only insects that migrate every year over 2500 miles in search of warmer climates for the winter. They need to hibernate in specific trees and—as caterpillars—need to eat certain plants (milkweed). Searching for those resources as well as warmer weather triggers the migrations. One wintering site is the small eucalyptus grove in Pacific Grove, CA. Butterflies return to this site year after year, but it is different butterflies. Actually, it is every fourth generation that makes it back to the original trees their ancestors visited. Remarkable! Reminds me, I need to go back to Pacific Grove to see these beautiful creatures in action once again—maybe this time I will catch them on a sunny day.
Until then, this video “Amazing Journeys: Monarch Butterflies—Mexico” gives a first-hand glimpse into the “mysterious and wondrous migrations” of the Monarch Butterfly. Enjoy.