Monarch butterflies in largest migration in past 140 years
Record sightings of monarch butterflies are setting hearts aflutter in Saskatchewan.
The butterflies are generally a rare sight on the prairies, but this year is the largest migration in 140 years.
"It's a remarkable year for the monarch butterfly," said John Acorn, a biology professor at the University of Alberta and insect expert.
"Virtually everybody who has gone outside has seen at least one."
The butterflies flying around southern and central Saskatchewan are likely the grandchildren of those who started the migration from Mexico City.
Warm weather in the southeastern United States over the winter and spring helped boost the population. Then, a strong wind last week helped the butterflies into our province.
"They're being blown, but they're also very powerful flyers on their own. They're generally sort of striving in this direction, it just helped that they had a good wind behind them this time," he said.
The monarch is the largest butterfly in Saskatchewan and the ones who are here are now on the hunt for milkweed plants - the only food the monarch caterpillars will eat. Acorn said some people used to think the prairies didn't have enough milkweed to attract the butterflies, but that has changed.
"We've got enough milkweed. There's a plant called low milkweed that grows here and it's usually sort of hidden in long grass ... some people have milkweed plants in their gardens as well."
The monarch butterflies in Saskatchewan will lay eggs on those milkweed plants. Acorn said once those hatch in August, there will be another surge in the number of the monarch butterflies flying around Saskatchewan.
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