Migration of Monarch Butterflies

The annual migration of monarch butterflies in North America is not only a unique phenomenon but also a sight to behold. Monarchs make the 5,500 km migration from Canada and the US in their millions, clustering tightly in the fir and pine forests in the Western area of Mexico City. Since it is virtually impossible to count them by individuals, they are counted by the total area that they cover.

While most insects can survive harsh weather, monarchs cannot survive the harsh conditions of an extended cold winter. This is why every fall, the monarch butterflies in North America head south to roosting sites where they spend the winter. Amazingly, they fly in their numbers to the same roosting areas and in many cases occupy exactly the same trees.

The migration of monarch butterflies is special because it is the type of migration that one would expect from whales or birds and not insects. However, unlike whales and birds, the monarchs that make the trip to the roosting areas don’t survive to make the return trip. In fact, it is their great grandchildren that head back south the next fall.

How do monarchs know it’s time to leave?

The life cycle of a monarch butterfly is a complicated one. This is because the monarchs that emerge at different periods in a year don’t do the same things. For instance, while a monarch that emerges in both the spring and summer periods becomes reproductive in a matter of days, a monarch that emerges in the fall emerges with its reproductive organs in a state of reproductive diapause or suspended development. This means that they will live until the next spring before they can lay eggs or mate.

The monarchs that emerge in the summer and early fall will have different physical and behavioral characteristics from those that will emerge in the summer. The changes are triggered by the cooler air, shorter days as well as milkweed senescence of late summer.

The end of the diapause period varies considerably across individual monarchs in an overwintering colony. An overwintering population comprises of monarchs that are from a wide range of geographical areas that have different environmental conditions. In most cases, diapause in males is shorter than in males.

How do monarchs know the location of overwintering sites?

Researchers are still trying to figure out how monarchs manage to find their overwintering sites. It is highly likely that they mostly rely on their instincts. Other likely directional aids include the sun’s position and the earth’s magnetic pull.

How do monarchs stay warm?

In order to stay warm, monarchs will cluster together in colonies. It is normal for tens of thousands of monarch butterflies to cluster on one tree. Although a single monarch weighs less than a gram, the weight of a cluster of tens of thousands can cause a tree branch to break.

Monarch numbers are shrinking

This year, there was a drop of 27 percent in the population of monarchs wintering in Mexico compared to last year. Experts have cited shrinking forests as a highly probable cause. Many scientists have raised alarm about the effect of illegal logging on the future of monarchs in the coming years. Storms and cold weather have also been cited as factors.




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How does a plant grow?

Have you ever thought of the origin of all the plants you see around you? How does a plant grow (from seed to full grown plant)? Plants are an outcome of seeds being planted. The seeds sprout to life. This process of sprouting is scientifically referred to as germination. This article explores in details the process of growth of a plant right from when a seed is planted until the plant becomes fully grown.

The factors that facilitate the growth of a plant

It is impossible to look at the process of the growth of a plant without considering the factors that facilitate this process. There are three major factors that are necessary for a seed to grow into a plant. They are: light, food and water.

1. Light

The source of light can be the natural light (sun) or artificial light. The light provides the seed with the energy required to carry out photosynthesis.

2. Food

For plants to grow, they need to produce their own food through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process through which a plant makes food out of light energy.

3. Water

Water is another condition that plants need to grow. When a seed germinates, the roots develop. The roots come in handy in supplying water and nutrients from the soil to the plant. As the plant continues to grow, the roots also grow in length and stretch more in an effort to carry more water from the soil to the plant.

The phases of growth of a plant

1. Germination stage

As mentioned earlier on, germination marks the foundation of the growth of a plant. Germination depends on factors such as: oxygen, warmth, light and water. Although some plant seeds need light to germinate, others do well in dark conditions. Germination is marked by planting of seeds in the soil. After several days, the planted seeds start to absorb water (imbibition process) and swell. The swelling triggers the splitting of the seed coat. Further, the roots and the plant shoot develop from the seed. Eventually the plant develops true roots and leaves.

2. The vegetative and growth phase

The development of the root system (the true roots) facilitates growth which in turn marks the stage for the vegetative phase. In this phase, the plants need adequate nutrients-nitrogen- in order to produce chlorophyll (the green pigments found in plants). Growth in this case is evident in the leaf areas, stems and branches.

3. The reproductive phase

This is the last and fascinating phase of the growth cycle of a plant. As the name suggests, the focus in this phase is for the plant to reproduce. Flowering takes place and so does the production of seeds and fruits. Unlike in the growth phase where nitrogen is a key nutrient requirement, it is not the case in this phase. The key nutrients required are potassium and phosphorus. This is because plant growth in this phase slows down.

How does reproduction occur?

Reproduction especially in flowering plants is supported by pollination. Pollination entails transfer of pollen (the sperm or male gametes of a plant) from a plant to another plant’s stigma (the egg cell or female gametes of a plant). It can also involve pollen being transferred from a plant to the stigma of a different flower of the same plant. Through pollination, plant fertilization is facilitated leading to development of a seed. The growth cycle of the plant starts all over again.






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The Grand Canyon

Have you thought of visiting the Grand Canyon recently? Well, you should make plans of visiting this place. You will realize that when it comes to National Parks, The Grand Canyon in a league of its own. This is a place where you can visit with your family or friends. This place is just spectacular. It is actually a traveler’s paradise. The following are the details about The Grand Canyon:

1. It is a veritable bouquet of plant life.

You will note that most people usually get the impression that the Grand Canyon is made up of subdued desert-brown colors. However, this is not true. You will note that this National Park is a home to 650 types of wildflowers. Some of these flowers include: purple Rocky Mountain iris, yellow ragweed, pink toad flax and so forth. If you want to have a better view of these flowers, you should visit this place during summer and spring.

2. Presence of waterfalls.

There are several waterfalls in the Grand Canyon. You will note that these waterfalls are normally very spectacular. One of these waterfalls is the Havasu Falls. This is one of the most famous waterfalls of the Grand Canyon. The other water fall that you are likely to find in this place is the Thunder River and Deer Creek Falls. This is another place where you can hike with your family and friends. The other fall that you should note is the Roaring Springs and Ribbon Falls. These are wonderful places where you can hike with the ones that you love.

3. It is super old.

You will note that geologists believe that Colorado River was created the canyon 6 million ago. In addition, the rocks present in this canyon are believed to be 2 billion years old. It is true to say that this place was formed millions of years ago.

4. You can experience the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

You will realize that this is the only place where you can experience this skywalk. Located at the west Rim, the “glass bridge” normally extends 70 feet past the edge and suspends people up to 4000 feet above the Colorado River. Most people normally enjoy this skywalk. It is very thrilling.

5. It is full of historical sites.

You will note that archeologists have actually uncovered more than 4800 ancient Indian sites. Their finding also suggest that people have continuously inhabited the canyon for more than 4000 years. There is a lot of history that you can learn from this place.

6. Presence of wildlife.

It is important to note that wildlife here normally roam freely through the park. Some of the common animals that you are likely to find include: deer, horned owls. Coyotes and so forth. There are more than 70 species of mammals in this park. In addition, there are more than 250 species of birds and 25 species of reptiles.

The above information can help you know all about the Grand Canyon. This is one of those places that you should visit. It can help you in lowering your stress. Remember that city life can be stressing at times. Once you visit this place, you can take photographs so that you can create memories. Most people have visited this place and have enjoyed the results. Visit this place and you will not regret. It is truly incredible.



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