Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

April 8, 1923. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 58(23): 3-W.

Mystery in Butterfly's Migratory Pilgrimage

By Sandy Griswold.

A really wonderful thing was the sight of a monarch butterfly, flying complacently from shrub to shrub, just the same as in June, with every bush in full flower, out in the court of the Tadousac apartments, in the warm sunshine of Thursday morning, three weeks before his normal schedule.

The monarch is one of our commonest of the largest of our butterflies and is known to every child that loves the outdoors, and that, I think includes them all. It is a gallus fellow, with his graceful form of a reddish brown, marked with jet black.

In the early May days its striped caterpillar is to be found in our open fields and along our country roads and byways among the milkweeds and goldenrod, upon which it largely subsists, and where you will often find its very attractive and interesting chrysalis, of a light emerald, sprinkled with ruddy gold, hanging generally from the milkweed's scraggly branches.

The mystic pilgrimages of the birds to the south in the fall, and back north in the spring, has been an endless source of scientific study and perplexity, and yet it is anything but satisfactorily explained ot understood. Still we know much about it, as we do also much about the migration of our fishes, of which real information is still less available.

And yet, of all, the ways of the migratory insect are still more unsatisfactorily understood, but an increasing source of investigation at the hands of biological savants.

It is known, however, that many of our butterflies belong as distinctly to the migratoria as do most of our birds, while others survive but a single summer, and still others go into hibernation in well protected and secret crypts. The monarch butterfly, which is, as I said, one of the commmonest, and easily recognized by his conspicuity in size and markings. It is likewise strictly migratory.

In the early October days it is numerously seen following the trend of the Missouri river valley to the land of perpetual sunshine, often singly, but general in good sized flocks. While it is a good strong aerial navigator it makes frequent stops for rest and refreshment, on the trees and shrubbery along its route.

There are years, as is the case with our rabbits, when the monarch butterfly almost totally disappears, and for a considerable period following is most noticeably scarce. Then will come a year when they are the most plentiful of all their kind, and scores of them are to be seen on a hot summer day, indolently undulating athwart our weedy fields and pastures.

Those who love the study, keep records of when, where and under what meteorological conditions each individual of this interesting insect is encountered, and the data of this sort scientifically assembled has made it possible to reason out therefrom the laws of nature governing the movements of this frail but beautiful creature.

This I offer as a hint to the bug hunters, for there are other species of the butterfly with which the monarch may be confused, especially the viceroy, almost its prototype in color and markings, and a bigger kindred, the fritillary butterfly, whose hind sails are as black as the eyes of the sloe, and which, in alternate seasons, is as numerous in this state as the monarch.

Wherefore or whyfore this Tadousac butterfly came up here at this unseemly season is something for those more profound in entomology than I am to discover. I will add, though, if it takes my advice, it will not shed its heavy underwear for a few weeks more, anyway.