National Start Seeing Monarchs Day is celebrated every year on the first Saturday of May. Monarchs can be found in prairies, meadows, grasslands, and roadsides, but generally, we do not start seeing them in Nebraska until June. Female monarch butterflies can lay up to 400 eggs which are deposited on the underside of milkweed leaves. Depending on the weather, eggs can hatch into caterpillars in as little as three days. The caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed for about two weeks causing them to be toxic to predators such as birds. Caterpillars then form a cocoon, metamorphosize, and emerge as an adult butterfly two weeks later.
Several generations of monarchs are born every summer in Nebraska and unless they are the last generation born in late August, they typically live only a few weeks. The last generation, however, is the migratory generation and they can live 8 to 9 months. This generation delays reproduction and migrates south for the winter as monarch butterflies cannot survive Midwest winters. Their wintering grounds are in Mexico which is a 3,000 mile journey. It is believed that the monarchs use the position of the sun to let them know it is time to begin their migration south.
Once spring comes again, the monarch butterflies migrate back north to Texas and southern parts of the United States. Each generation continues to move further north and the monarchs we first start seeing in Nebraska are likely the second generation of the year. Here and along the way, monarch butterflies pollinate many wildflowers while feeding on their nectar. As pollinators, we will be celebrating them and other species at the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center during Pollinator Week, June 17-23. There will be activities for large groups during the week (call 308-382-1820 for more information) and a family day for all on Saturday, June 22nd. Activities include pollinator origami, learning the life cycle of a butterfly, pipe cleaner crafts, coloring pages, bird watching, geocaching, mud ball planting, a bike ride, and more. Check back for more details regarding the event. We would love to have you join us!