Idaho Monarch Butterfly Found On California Coast

Mar 9, 2018

A butterfly, born and raised in the Treasure Valley, has flown all the way to the Pacific coast.

The monarch, nicknamed Monet, is part of a Washington State University study that tags and follows the winged invertebrates during their life cycle.

It’s the first time a tagged monarch has been found to have flown from Idaho to California.

Monet was reared in Idaho from a caterpillar last August by a butterfly enthusiast.

Early childhood photo of Monet in Idaho before she became a butterfly.
Credit Melinda Lowe / Monarch Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest Facebook Page.

“I had a specially-built butterfly cage constructed for her where she grew fat and happy eating freshly-picked showy milkweed leaves,” says Melinda Lowe.

When Monet became a butterfly, Lowe released her from her yard in September.

“I flapped my hand waving goodbye. [It was such] a bittersweet moment,” Lowe says.

She flew 662 miles to southern California to the greater Santa Barbara area where she had a near-death experience by falling into a swimming pool. Fortunately Monet was spotted and rescued by homeowner Mike McBirney who saved her from an uncertain fate. He then released Monet back into the wild.

WSU associate professor David James says this is big news in the butterfly world.

“Monet is the first Idaho monarch in my study to be recovered in California, and at six months of age she is the longest-lived monarch documented in this Washington State University tagging effort,” says James. “Monet will go down in Idaho monarch history, that’s for sure.”

Now, says James, it’s time for Monet to get down to the business of breeding.

Monet in Idaho before her epic flight to California. Tagged and ready to make research history.
Credit Melinda Lowe / Monarch Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest Facebook Page.

“Hopefully, she is now heading inland from Goleta, California, with dry wings, seeking milkweed to lay her eggs,” said James.

Female monarchs will only lay their eggs on milkweed. And that’s part of the problem. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the signature black and orange species is in trouble and is trying to help save the species. A decline in native milkweed is believed to be hurting monarch numbers. Other issues affecting their population include human development, pesticides and a drop of plants that provide food for the species. 

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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