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Migrating populations of monarch butterflies are predicted to be on the low side this year, but that doesn't mean you won't notice them. If you look up in the sky late in the afternoon during the next few weeks, chances are good that you will see determined monarch butterflies flitting toward Mexico.
Butterfly watchers in the upper Midwest are already seeing roosts in which dozens of monarchs gather in a single bush or tree for the night. Here in southwest Virginia, a continuous stream of monarchs are stopping to sip nectar from the native asters and zinnias I planted just for them.
Want to track this year's migration and report sightings? The animated migration map, based on the citizen reporting system hosted by JourneyNorth.org, provides great graphics. Or, you can participate in the forum for sightings sponsored by MonarchWatch.org.
Sometimes it may look like monarchs are flying in the wrong direction, but don't worry. Recent scientific papers by neurobiologist Steven R. Reppert have identified a sophisticated inner clock mechanism that enables monarchs to constantly reorient themselves, insuring that they stay on a sound migratory course.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
Photo by Barbara Pleasant