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Monarchs: Science and Story

news story photo
Danaus plexippus, from American Entomology, by Thomas Say (New York, 1869); illustrated by T. R. Peale.

If the gorgeous weather saw you hiking the hills around Cornell last month, you’ll quite likely have seen blooms of monarch butterfly caterpillars feasting on the stalky milkweed ubiquitous to the fields, pastures, and roadsides across much of North America. Fast forward to early October, and the butterflies coming out of that final round of summer chrysalides are now beating their orange wings across the ripening fall landscape of a wide swathe of eastern North America in one of the most intriguing phenomena of the North American insect world: The mass migration of hundred of thousands from the open fields of Canada and the U.S. to a handful of wooded hilltops in south central Mexico.

For all their bold beauty, monarchs remain somewhat mysterious creatures of our natural world. There's quite a bit that we know--thanks in part to the work of some intrepid scientists and watchful citizen scientists who first documented the fact of monarch migration in the 1970s. And there's quite a bit that we have yet to understand well, particularly as monarchs face their own set of challenges in a climate-changing world. So, we're thinking there's no better time than now to flash a bit of showiness of our own here at the Library, with a spotlight on some of the cool treasures you can find in our various collections to explore some of this unfolding story.

Our celebration includes:

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