Pics from a walk around Natural Bridges State Park, Santa Cruz, California during the Monarch butterfly season.
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Thousands of butterflies resting on the branches of Eucalyptus trees around the main viewing area. These trees are non-native to this area and before their introduction the butterflies would have rested on Monterey pines and Monterey cypress.
Recent studies suggest that the Eucalyptus actually offer more protection to the butterflies from inclement weather. This is an unfortunate result because the native trees could do with some of the public interest generated by the butterflies
The butterfly has a beautiful latin name to match: Danaus plexippus, in honour of the Greek goddess Diana and from the latin word for network.
Butterflies overwinter in this area and then come spring they mate and head off inland and north. What is interesting about this annual migration is that it is a multi-generational event - it is not the overwintering adult which returns to the summer area, but its children and children's children.
The males which overwintered die soon after mating, but a mated female will start the migration. She lays eggs on patches of milkweed on the way which hatch to give caterpillars. Lots of milkweed and several moults later each caterpillar transforms into pupae. Within the hard shell a metamorphosis occurs and after about a week a new adult butterfly emerges to continue the migration, mate ...