SISTER PARKS: NORTH AMERICAN COLONIALITY AND THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY
Monarch migration and the making of North America
At the end of each summer, the northern prairies and Great Lakes regions of North America host a new generation of monarch butterflies. After their last metamorphosis in late fall, the butterflies travel over 4,000 km to what we now call Mexico. In their warmer winter habitat, they form colossal raindrop-shaped clusters of thousands of butterflies suspended from a single tree species, the oyamel. Monarchs there enter a semi-dormant state for four months, surviving on little food. Each subsequent migratory generation performs this heroic feat without directly ‘learning’ the route from their progenitors. Despite their iconic standing across other North American insects, monarchs today are threatened by decline.
What is certain is that monarchs lack the healthy interconnected continental habitat they need.
Conservation scientists continue to debate the specific reasons for their reduced population; however, what is certain is that monarchs lack the healthy interconnected continental habitat they need to thrive in large numbers.
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Columba is a Mexican sociocultural anthropologist who explores multispecies connections between monarch butterflies, labour migration and Indigenous communities that co-habit with the insect across North America. She is interested in environmental ethics ‘beyond borders’ and collaborates with the NSF-funded research team EMIGRA.