Monarch butterflies in winter.
Many people believe that butterflies live just for one day – or maybe a few days
Some insects just live long enough to mate and reproduce (mayflies and such critters – yes, perhaps.)
Butterflies tend to go on for weeks and weeks, especially when the weather is warm and when there’s plenty of food.
Monarchs can live for six to 8 weeks in the spring and summer months – no problems, but in winter it’s a totally different story: The species hibernates as adult butterflies and that means they can be around for 6 to 9 months.
Here’s their winter lifecycle:
Last generation monarch butterflies emerges from pupae around April / May.
They feed as long as they can until winter sets in.
Prolonged winter temps below 12/13 degrees will make them look for a hibernation place: usually a park or a group of tall trees.
There they tend to congregate (pheromones??) in variable numbers and simply hang from twigs and branches for day after day. Sometimes weeks and weeks.
Only start flying when it really warms up in the middle of the day/afternoon, before returning to their hibernation spot again to conserve energy.
Unlike the North American monarch populations (that make huge migration journeys to Mexico, where they hibernate in spectacular fashion), our monarchs literally wander around in no particular direction.
Good hibernation sites I’ve known were:
Tauranga Bay (Northland) (thousands!)
Whakatane in Kopeopeo (Hundreds)
Nelson near the cathedral (hundreds)
Various parks in Christchurch (hundreds and hundreds)
And even in Liffy Reserve Lincoln, just a few years ago (hundreds)
When spring arrives, the butterflies (often quite frayed-looking) find a mate and start laying eggs again.
You can support your monarchs (and other nectivorous insects and birds) by planting good flowering plants and shrubs.
For more information become a member of the Butterfly Trust:
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