Monarch Butterflies, Santa Cruz, California
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) migrate long distances and spend the winters by the mild California coast. These monarchs were high in a eucalyptus tree in Santa Cruz, California. Each generation of monarch butterflies live from 6 weeks to 6 months, and can fly up to 100 miles per day, migrating between the California coast and the Rocky Mountains. Interestingly, these monarchs are the great-great-grandchildren of the monarchs that wintered in Santa Cruz last year. These monarchs are clustered together because the temperature in the shade was cool. In cooler weather, the monarchs cluster together with their legs intertwined on the eucalyptus leaves. When the temperature is below 55 degrees, monarchs cannot fly, and in temps below 45 degrees, they cannot move. As the temperature increases, the monarchs start to open their wings, because their wings act as solar panels warming their bodies. Monarchs become active only when the temperature is above 60 degrees. Once their their wings have absorbed heat and the temperature has increased, the monarchs take flight. Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz celebrates the return of the monarchs in November each year.