The monarch butterflies, including 36,000 with tiny identification numbers on their right wings, are moving out from their coastal winter roosts, as they always do at this time of year. As their movements are traced by the tags on their wings, new and surprising facts about their activities are emerging.
"We have confirmed this year what we have suspected--that the migration begins with the southernmost clusters," Chris Nagano reported from the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, where he coordinates the study of the monarchs. "But instead of all moving north, as we had thought, there is more of a shotgun migration--movement in a real random fashion, flying until they find the environment they require."
The target is milkweed, on which the female lays her eggs because it is the favored food of the caterpillars that will emerge.
The most impressive flight reported so far this year is a monarch that flew 28 miles in a single day, from Big Sycamore Canyon near Point Mugu to Rustic Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains. The easternmost flight recorded this year took a monarch from its winter roosting site in Rustic Canyon to San Bernardino.