GLEN JEAN, W.V. (LOOTPRESS) – Officials with the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve took to Facebook yesterday, updating residents on the prominent presence of Monarch caterpillars and butterflies in the park’s wildflower garden at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center.
According to the park, the garden is full of milkweed, which is the only plant that monarch butterflies feed on, leaving a large number to gather in the garden. The milkweed plant isn’t just for eating, the park says. The caterpillar’s uptake chemical defense from the plant, also known as cardiac glycosides, a compound that can disrupt heart rhythm, helps them keep predators at bay.
“Monarch populations have been in significant decline over the past couple of decades and has recently been put up for review to be protected by the Endangered Species Act,” the park explained. “Declines in monarch butterflies is tied to a loss in milkweed populations from large-scale herbicide use and loss of habitat from development.”
In addition to being beautiful, Monarch butterflies are the only species of butterfly to undertake a two-way migration similar to that of birds.
Monarchs are incredible insects. This species of butterfly will fly up to 100 miles a day from the United States and Canada for two months to reach the mountains of Mexico to overwinter. Some Monarchs may travel up to 3,000 miles to reach their final destination, all while flying at an average speed of 5.5 miles per hour.
Want to see these amazing butterflies for yourself? Those who stop by the Canyon Rim Visitor Center in the next few weeks may get lucky and see a caterpillar forming its chrysalis or even a Monarch butterfly emerging from one.