Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Friday, May 08, 2009

Migrants Return

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

A lot of my birder friends are getting all swoon-y over the spring bird migration. I need to step up and celebrate the return of the migrating insects. Last weekend at the Fen, Leon and Kevin saw a very worn Monarch. Unfortunately, I was not with them when it happened, but it's always a delight to hear. A quick perusal of the Journey North website's interactive map reveals that the observation is right in line with what's been reported elsewhere in the country. The monarchs that are getting here right now were born in Texas about a month ago. They are the offspring of the butterflies that spent the winter in the Transvolcanic Mountains of Mexico.

Green Darner (Anax junius) Photo: Wikipedia Commons

It isn't just the monarchs- other insect migrants are arriving as well. It's much less widely known that some dragonflies also migrate. The green darner is the best-studied example. The details are much less well worked out than they are for monarchs. Confounding matters even further, some green darners head south for the winter. Others spend the winter up here in the north. Dragonflies begin their lives as aquatic creatures called nymphs or naiads. In late summer about half of the naiads complete their development. They migrate to the Gulf Coast and Peninsular Florida. The other half of the naiads spend the winter in the northern lakes and ponds. They complete their development the following spring- and emerge at about the same time that the migrants return. Over the past week and a half I've been seeing lots of green darners. Are they returning migrants, or newly emerged from naiads that overwintered? It's hard to say- but it's great to have them back.

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At 09:52, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm ashamed to admit that I did not know some dragonflies migrate. Thanks for pointing out to me how little I still know about the insect world ;-)

At 11:07, Blogger Gallicissa said...

It is worth paying a visit to any suitable local dragonfly breeding ponds at night to see emerging dragonflies, to whether there are any Green Darners.

I have ones emerging almost everyday in my dragonfly pond - on one day as many as 7!

Most of the ones that have emerged so far have been a Libelluid named Dingy Duskflyer and No.2 is a type you are familar with - Dawn Dropwing.

Do you have a garden pond?

At 11:41, Blogger SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

How lovely to see all these again Doug. I must admit I do not get excited about the birds either but show me an insect and I go gaga. :)

At 11:49, Blogger Floridacracker said...

I didn't know dragonflies migrated!

At 01:33, Blogger wcs said...

I've seen monarchs gathering near Pacific Grove in California - great sight! But I had no idea that dragonflies migrate, too. I love learning new stuff from blogs!

At 14:02, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Ted- I was expecting a bunch of my readers to be surprised that dragonflies migrate- but not you. I'm pleased that I can offer something to somebody who knows so much more about insects than I do.

Amila- I should make more of an effort to see dragonfly emergence. I do not have a garden pond, because my garden isn't really right for that. More photos of the Dawn Dropwing would always be appreciated.

Joan- It's been a long winter, so it's great to see all this stuff back again.

FC and wcs- I had a feeling that dragonfly migration would come as a revelation to a bunch of folks. Glad you enjoyed.


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