It’s Danaus plexippus – Monarch butterfly – time again in West Texas.
That’s the end-of-September, early-October period when our sunny days, cool nights and relatively windless afternoons make the pecan trees on Abilene Christian University’s campus a haven for tens of thousands of the insects as they migrate from the Midwest and Northeast to Mexico for the winter. Branches of some trees are seemingly covered with them.
It is believed that nearly all the Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains winter within about 60 miles of Mexico City (a discovery not made until the mid 1970s). They can travel up to 170 miles a day, and some traverse 3,000 miles before settling in Central Mexico.
You can learn more at the Monarch Waystation Program run by the University of Kansas, or contribute you own sightings on the Journey North website, which keeps up with the annual movements, and even learn how scientists tag Monarchs to assist with their research. Monarchs with a small round adhesive piece of white paper on one wing have been tagged by entomologists; so it’s OK to report the finding, then free the regal insect to continue its journey.
Thanks to Rendi (Young ’83) Hahn, advancement campaign coordinator at ACU, for these colorful images from campus. Hahn also is a fairly prolific photographer of Abilene’s colorful sunsets and sunrises, which you can enjoy at her Facebook page.