We adventure travelers sometimes think we are pretty big after we come back from a long hiking trip or a several country escapade, but we have nothing on the monarch butterfly. The monarch butterflies captured in these photos are about to embark on a 2,000 plus mile journey to the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico.
Monarch butterflies west of the Rockies migrate to southern California. Some in Canada actually travel as far as 3,000 miles. It takes them up to two months to complete the journey.
This journey is as long as the Appalachian Trail. A few humans hike the Appalachian Trail once or perhaps twice in their life. The monarch butterfly migrates this distance twice a year.
There are many birds that migrate just as far or even farther, but they can fly a lot faster than a monarch butterfly. Although monarchs do not fly fast, they use wind currents to help them along and can fly an impressive 50-100 miles a day. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the farthest recorded one day travel for a monarch butterfly was an incredible 265 miles.
Some of the strategies they use to fly back and forth are amazing. They cluster on peninsulas when crossing large bodies of water. They somehow know the tip of the peninsula is the shortest route across the water. They then lay in wait for a gentle breeze blowing in the right direction to help them across.
Next time you hike a measly 10-15 miles in a day or managed to make two border crossings in Asia, just remember the monarch butterfly and their two amazing journeys each year.
These monarchs were photographed either in Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie or in the Montrose Beach Bird Sanctuary in Chicago. For another nice monarch shot, check out this blog post from the Mad Traveler.
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