Outdoors: Monarchs of the lake

Aug 26, 2020

"He was an Englishman." I'm thinking that when W.S. Gilbert wrote "I am the monarch of the sea" for the operetta "HMS Pinafore," he was not referring to the North American butterflies known as monarchs. 

Occasionally, either because of defective instincts or being blown off course, monarchs are found roosting on drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

But monarchs do not belong on the sea.

Thanks to the Ice Age glaciers, we have the Great Lakes, which are daunting obstacles to fragile migrating butterflies. 

In spite of that fact, monarchs are sometimes sighted far offshore, using the winds of Lake Michigan to aid their migration.

That's not to say that monarchs like flying over open water. They don't.

Though they have never flown the route to Mexico before, monarchs somehow know to use peninsulas as bridges to shorten their water crossings.

Clouds of monarchs are occasionally spotted off the Leelanau Peninsula, but most of these butterflies full onto the Stoningham Peninsula near Escanaba.

While on that peninsula, they wait until the winds out of the north create the thermal updrafts on which they can gain altitude and glide to the Garden Peninsula. Then, using islands like stepping stones, they're on to the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin, finally over land to their destination.

Those poor wandering ones out in the Gulf? Monarchs of the sea will no doubt perish in some billowy wave.

Monarchs of the lake spend the winter in Mexico.