WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Victoria Burnett from the Great Plains Nature Center (GPNC) visited KSN News at Noon on Tuesday, Sept. 13, for KSN’s Wild Side segment and introduced us to a Monarch butterfly and a few Monarch caterpillars.
According to the GPNC, the Monarch butterfly is one of the most recognized insects in North America. “With its vivid orange and black markings and often bold behavior around people, it seldom fails to create a smile on the face of anyone who sees it.”
These butterflies are not warm-blooded, so winter presents a challenge. While some butterfly species are able to stay in Kansas over the winter as a caterpillar, pupa, or even as an adult, many simply die and are replaced by migrants from warmer climates next year.
“Monarchs are unique in that they actually migrate south to a given overwintering site every year, much as many species of birds do. Unlike birds, the Monarchs who go south do not succeed in returning to where they were born. Rather, their children or grandchildren do … without any elders to show them the way. The innate ability of these small creatures to navigate across the continent has inspired and puzzled researchers for decades,” states the GPNC.
Burnett says that adult Monarchs are known to live up to eight or nine months if they are traveling down south for the winter. If they are producing eggs, that number is just six weeks.
The puzzle of the Monarch migration inspired the University of Kansas to create a program called Monarch Watch, a citizen science project where individuals are able to tag monarch butterflies by placing a small tracking sticker on their wings. If a tagged Monarch is later recaptured, the route they took can be used to better understand how they choose which way to go.
The Great Plains Nature Center is hosting a Pollinator Party on Saturday, Sept. 17, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Here guests will be able to enjoy monarch tagging, native pollinator wildflower walks, crafts all about pollinating, and more. This event is free for all ages.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks will also be hosting a Monarch tagging event on Saturday, Sept. 17, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, 595 NE K-156 in Great Bend. Here guests will be able to enjoy puppet theatre, live dancing performances, a dance workshop for children, butterfly catching, an insect zoo, a craft station, enjoy a wildflower butterfly garden, refreshments, and more.
“Keep an eye out during the month of September for the Monarchs as they head south. In south central Kansas, this usually happens around the middle of the month. In some years we see a lot, in other years not so many, depending on the weather patterns. If you are lucky, the migrants may make a temporary roost in your neighborhood and you may get to see, in miniature, what the winter roosts look like,” states the GPNC.
To learn more about Monarch butterflies from the GPNC, click here.