Photo: Flight of the Butterflies
I recently had the opportunity to get a sneak preview of Flight of the Butterflies, which opens at the The American Museum of Natural History in New York City on Saturday, Jan 5. This movie taught me just how incredible these beautiful and delicate butterflies really are.In the movie, a group of researchers track the migration of monarch butterflies to see where they spend the winter. Through this study they made several findings, including the great amount of distance the insect can travel. One butterfly traveled 80 miles in a single day.
Butterflies always looked like fragile creatures to me. They weigh less than a penny and it looks like a strong gust of wind can blow them away or even tear apart their thin delicate wings.
I was surprised at how strong these creatures can be, flying a mile high and migrating from Canada to Mexico. Here are some other amazing facts about monarch butterflies.
It may seem weird that the monarch's caterpillars only eat milkweed, but that actually protects them. The bitter and poisonous plant makes the caterpillar bitter and poisonous, deterring potential predators from making it a meal.
Scans show how the caterpillar turns into a butterfly in the chrysalis (the butterfly equivalent of the moth's cocoon). Its organs change in shape and size, its mouth changes shape to enable the insect to drink nectar from flowers, and flight muscles, wings, compound eyes, and long legs develop.
The typical butterfly life cycle takes about four weeks, as they change from an egg to a caterpillar, to a chrysalis, and finally a butterfly. The butterflies usually live for two to six weeks.
It takes three generations for the butterflies to migrate north to Canada, but one super-generation that can live 8 to 10 times longer than normal embarks on (and completes) the migration back to Mexico.
The monarch butterfly's migration is the longest insect migration in the world, totaling about 2,000 miles one way.
The monarchs are really powerful creatures — they can fly up to a mile high and one butterfly was even observed covering 80 miles in one day.
The World Wildlife Fund has classified the monarch butterfly as near threatened due to illegal logging, industrial farming, and climate change that has disrupted their habitats.
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