GIBBON — Monarch butterflies know things we do not understand.
“During the winter, almost every monarch travels to a single spot in Mexico,” said Beka Yates, education manager at Rowe Sanctuary. “That’s just the way they’ve done it for thousands, if not millions, of years. That is just in their instinct to do. We don’t know how they know it’s time to migrate. It’s not like a bird that has a higher brain function.”
The insects have very limited brain power.
“Where they’re going, it’s all instinctual,” Yates said.
Rowe Sanctuary will offer central Nebraska residents an opportunity to learn more about the butterflies during Monarch Watch, part of the Rowe Adventures, 1-4 p.m. Saturday at the sanctuary at 44450 Elm Island Road, southwest of Gibbon.
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The event will present information about the life cycle of the monarch butterflies as well as a chance to work with the community science project, Monarch Watch, by netting and carefully tagging the insects.
One interesting fact: The monarchs go through several generations during each summer.
“The last generation is the one that migrates,” Yates said. “They are slightly bigger than the other monarchs during the summer so they are able to migrate all the way down to Mexico, over winter there and come back in the springtime.”
It takes several generations in the springtime to finish the migration.
“The event is for all ages,” Yates said. “There is something there for adults and kids. We will be using nets and catching monarch butterflies. We also have trained volunteers who will put little stickers on the wings of the butterflies. That’s how we tag them.”
Researchers can track the progress of the butterflies when they re-catch them.
“That gives us a better idea of the monarchs that are coming through Nebraska or have lived in Nebraska all summer,” Yates said. “Exactly where do they go? What does their migration path look like?”
Understanding the lives of monarch butterflies helps Yates appreciate the role of nature.
“This is just all the more reason to take it all in and appreciate it,” she said. “We sometimes take these things for granted but learning more about these natural forms of phenomenon makes you appreciate the natural world even more.”
More knowledge about the natural world also helps us make better choices about how we affect our habitat, Yates believes.