The fall migration of the monarch butterfly has been going on around here for about a week now, and it’s always a welcome sight. A couple of years ago, we planted one of those spindly “butterfly bushes” in our backyard. Normally, I’d be skeptical about a bush that claims to attract butterflies, but I’d been assured by people I trust that they do indeed work. And they were right!
As I write this, there are about a dozen of them fluttering around my one planting, which in early autumn is just past its prime, but still has retained enough faintly fragrant white flowers to draw them steadily. They flit around, so they’re hard to capture on an iPhone, but at least they don’t scatter when a big bad human arrives.
This post belongs on this blog because of where they’re going. Monarchs live in the forests of central Mexico (and yes, some reside in Yucatán) and travel to Canada beginning in February, returning around now. It’s a miraculous trip, if only because their short lifespan prevents any one butterfly from actually completing the trip itself. Somehow, each new generation inherits a memory of its destination.
I had a little flashback while watching that “Mexico: The Royal Tour” special, which featured the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Michoacan. When I was a little boy, my parents gave me a butterfly net, and I used to catch all kinds of butterflies and keep them in jars until they died. Barbaric, now that I think back. My dad even had a big display piece of plastic, hard to explain, but it was sort of like a giant laminated piece with dead butterflies preserved inside. It’s unthinkable that we would do this, even if it does preserve their beauty and serve some educational value. Today, I’d rather view a good .jpg of them, while I’m tracking their progress here.