Watching beautiful orange and black monarch butterflies flit from blossom to branch, who wouldn't want to join in their joyous flight?
Well, it turns out that the life of a monarch isn't all that carefree. Not only do the tiny creatures have to flap their way from Canada to Mexico every fall, the habitat that supports their travels has been diminished or destroyed in recent years.
On such an arduous journey, it's nice to have some friends along the way. One of the monarchs' friends this year decided to actually make the journey with them, flying a butterfly-winged ultralight aircraft along the migration route. Last week, the pilot, Francisco Gutierrez, stopped in Lawrence, where he hooked up with some other monarch friends, including Kansas University ecology professor Chip Taylor.
Flying along with the monarchs in the tiny aircraft, must give Gutierrez a vivid sense of the dangers and stress monarchs face on their annual migration. A film crew is documenting Gutierrez's travels to help share that feeling with others.
Part of his mission is to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the monarchs, which is admirable. Fortunately, there are less rigorous ways to share in the monarchs' journey.
Taylor pointed out this week how much average people can contribute by providing a friendly space for monarchs. Planting milkweed and other flowers that attract and provide food for the butterflies may not provide as much adventure as an ultralight flight, but it's something everyone can do in the safety of their own backyard.
The reward is not only the joy of being visited by some of nature's most beautiful aviators but knowing that you've aided the monarchs long-term survival.