Wild Thing Wednesday is starting fall migration with the monarch butterfly.  These colorful butterflies make one of the most incredible journeys in the animal world.  Flying from places like Wisconsin and Minnesota all the way to central Mexico to overwinter.  This migration is already in progress, and the butterflies we see now are taking part in it.  We will not be seeing these individuals again, but their grandchildren will be back next June.  Monarch butterflies have four generations in a year, with the final generation making the massive migration south in autumn.  The first two generations the next year will each make a smaller segment of the return north.  Once they have returned to their summer habitat, monarch caterpillars will feed exclusively on members of the milkweed plant family.  These plants contain foul tasting compounds that the monarch absorbs into its own body without any harmful effects.  These compounds then cause the monarchs themselves to taste terrible, and predators who try to consume one usually end up losing their lunch.  Those bright stripes on the caterpillars and orange colors on the adults serve as a “do not eat me” warning to other animals, a warning that several harmless species try to mimic.  Monarch butterflies are an incredible addition to Horicon’s wild ensemble, and we work to support them through prairie restorations and by tagging migrating monarchs through citizen science efforts.  Want to learn more?  Check The Monarch Joint Venture program, or come to one of our public monarch tagging events August 24 and 26th, at 10:00AM and 2:00PM

Photo Credit: Caleb Jenks and Deb Pritchard