Three Thousand Miles

by John Riggio

Monarch butterflies migrate up to 3,000 miles each autumn. We thought it would be a cool (and cross curricular) topic for your students to sing about. The lyrics to the song say, "Make the journey south to a place they've never been." Do you wonder why that is? It's because monarchs have very short lives, about 2 to 6 weeks as adults in the summer months. It takes multiple generations to migrate north, but only one generation migrates south. This last generation (typically the fourth generation) is the one that could fly up to 3,000 miles to their winter home, and of course, this generation has never seen it! Most monarchs migrate to Mexico, and hibernate in the Oyamel fir trees, but some make their way to California, where they hibernate in Eucalyptus trees. The cycle looks like this:

  • First generation is March/April.
  • Second generation is May/June.
  • Third generation is July/August.
  • Fourth generation is September/October.

This fourth generation hibernates in warmer climates, then in the spring begins the journey north, laying eggs along the way. These will become the new first generation.

The sad news is, the monarch butterfly population has been declining for years. If your students would like to encourage the population growth of monarch butterflies, they can help create a habitat for them by planting milkweed. Milkweed is the only food that monarch caterpillars eat, and monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs. While there are other plants and flowers the adult monarch can eat, milkweed is key. There are numerous web sites that supply information about monarch butterflies and how to track them, and how to help improve their chances of survival.

That said, this a wonderful and happy song that we hope your students enjoy!

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.