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Oct. 31, 2007
Monarchs Migrate Off The Beaten Path
AUSTIN, Texas — Observers have spotted tens of thousands of monarch butterflies migrating across the Texas coast from Louisiana to Mexico in what is being described as "the best coastal monarch viewing in the last 15 years."
The majority of monarchs normally migrate through the central flyway, which extends from I-35 west to Midland, Texas, but this year the coastal flyway has been more impressive. Scientists are unsure as to what has caused this change.
"I can’t really say what it is, but it’s always a little bit of a mystery about where they come from and how they travel in migration," said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Entomologist Mike Quinn. "I would say the coastal flyway is just not well understood."
Nearly all of the monarch butterflies east of the Rocky Mountains in North America travel south through Texas each fall to spend the winter in one spot in the Mexican mountains. Monarchs tend to fly in masses and migrate up to 3,000 miles from northeast North America to central Mexico and half way back the following spring. They are the only butterflies to make such a long, two-way migration every year.
The highest observation numbers are currently north of Corpus Christi and Quinn expects the butterflies to be visible along the coastline for another two weeks. "People should have plenty of opportunities to get out to the coast, parks and refuges to see this wonderful phenomenon," he said.
Monarchs have also been known to set up colonies along the Gulf coast of Texas, and Quinn encourages the public to report such sightings at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adult monarch butterflies are orange with black veins and white spotted wing borders. Males have a black scent patch on a vein across the middle of the hind wing. Additional information may be found on the TPWD Web site.
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