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Monarch butterflies fluttering around the Big Country on their way to Mexico


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As the seasons begin to change and colder weather draws closer, people may be starting to see more butterflies in the air around the Big Country.

Monarch butterflies have started their migration down south to Mexico and are currently fluttering around the Big Country.

During the warmer months of spring and summer, Monarch butterflies are found in Canada and east of the Rocky Mountains, but around August, they start their migration journey and head down to southwestern Mexico.

Monarch butterflies make it down in the southern parts of the United States around early October.

McKinley Charleville, who is an Abilene native, has tracked butterflies with her father ever since she was a little girl and she said that the Monarch butterflies will continue to trickle their way through the Big Country until the colder air draws near.

"They'll just come in with the cold fronts and then they stay here while it's warm, and when the next cold front blows through, they move on to their next location, further south," said Charleville.

Monarch butterflies lay eggs on local milkweed plants before continuing their migration.

Many generations of Monarch butterflies come and go throughout the Big Country and new ones arrive each year.

Monarch butterflies live very short lives and most summer butterflies only live three to four weeks, but winter butterflies can live five to eight months, living the whole winter in Mexico.

McKinley said that one special thing about the Monarch butterflies is that they instinctively know where to migrate, even with the changing of seasons.

"So even though the Monarchs that are here have never been here before, they know to come here every year," Charleville said.

Jean Dotson, a Texas Master Naturalist, said that the Monarch butterflies' migration is what makes their species so unique.

"Many butterflies just overwinter where they are, but Monarchs make this huge migration all the way from Canada to Mexico, and they all come through our little funnel here in Texas," said Dotson.

Dotson said that people are also spotting what might look like miniature Monarch butterflies, but in fact, those are actually a different species of butterfly called the American snout butterfly.

"Monarchs are huge, and you know, as a baby, they're a caterpillar, when they emerge from a chrysalis, they are full-grown," Dotson said.

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If anybody is looking to get a glimpse at these beautiful butterflies before they continue down south, they can head over to the campus of Abilene Christian University.

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