This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Where Are the Butterflies?

The Big Day is tomorrow.  The official start of the 17th Annual Butterfly Festival of Mission, TX.  This is why we came.  It is what we have been anxiously awaiting.  There is only one problem.  The severe Texas drought means fewer flowers, fewer flowers means less nectar, and less nectar means fewer butterflies!  The butterflies aren’t picky about which plants the nectar comes from as long as they can find the plants.  They use their vision to find a bloom, but once they are on the plant they “taste” with receptors on their feet to find the nectar.   

Monarchs have a few other “super” powers also.  They can see polarized ultraviolet light (humans cannot) and they can hear ultrasound (humans cannot).  Butterflies can also touch and feel with hairs that cover their “skin”.  Monarchs also have ears and can hear both high-pitch and low-pitch sounds.  However, their ears are not on their heads where you might expect, they have a “hearing” membrane located at the base of each wing.  Their antennae perform double duty.  They are used for both touch and smell.  The male Monarch can smell a female from over a mile away! (refer to yesterday’s post to find out what happens once he gets her scent!)

Due to the drought, I have seen only a few around the RV park.  The butterflies won’t change their migration route in order to find areas less affected by the drought.  The route is hardwired into their DNA somehow.  As a result, there will be fewer Monarchs making it all the way to Mexico.  To make matters worse, the trees in which they roost over the winter in Mexico are being cut down by illegal logging operations, which the Mexican government is attempting to stop.  Unfortunately, until the drought ends and the logging is stopped there will be fewer and fewer Monarchs each year.

Now, when you do see one, how do you know whether it is a male of female?  Do you even care whether it is a male or female?  I don’t especially care but since I found out I’m going to tell you anyway.

The male Monarch Butterfly is easily distinguished from the female by two highly visible black spots (pouches of "love" chemicals) on the male's hind wings and the thinner black webbing within the wings.  The female's webbing is thicker and she has no identifying wing spots as does the male.  Now, go out and find a Monarch and determine its sex.  If you can do that, fee free to call yourself a lepidopterist.

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