Beautiful, but troubling: Monarch Butterflies in Edmonton

A monarch butterfly nectaring on lilacs in Edmonton. The butterflies usually don't make it that far north and experts are at a loss to explain why they are showing up in such record numbers. (Shelley Ryan-Hovind/University of Alberta/CP)

A monarch butterfly nectaring on lilacs in Edmonton. The butterflies usually don't make it that far north and experts are at a loss to explain why they are showing up in such record numbers. (Shelley Ryan-Hovind/University of Alberta/CP)

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The Monarch butterfly: as light as a kiss, but tough as nails. They travel thousands of kilometres on their annual migrations. This year they've flown further North than ever before. Biologists ask what the insects are trying to tell us by summering in Edmonton.


Part Two of The Current

Beautiful, but troubling: Monarch Butterflies in Edmonton - Jeremy Kerr

Butterflies have indeed been flying high and away this year. The monarch's annual migration is impressive enough. But to see so many fluttering in and around Edmonton is astonishing and without precedent.

All that orange and black is a delight for John Acorn. He's a biologist at the University of Alberta, a broadcaster and the chair of the Alberta Lepidopterist Guild And every week he takes a walk through Edmonton's Government House Park along the North Saskatchewan River. He's walked the same route for 14 years and has counted 45 species over the years on his weekly butterfly survey.

Canadians have spotted other unusual butterfly airforces barnstorming the country this year. About ten times the usual number of red admiral butterflies have been spotted in central and eastern Canada. For more on that, we're joined by Jeremy Kerr, a conservation biologist at the University of Ottawa who tracks environmental changes through the changing habits of butterflies. Jeremy Kerr was in Ottawa.

Beautiful, but troubling: Monarch Butterflies in Edmonton - Ryan Norris

Butterflies seem so delicate. Looks can be deceiving. Some species make the kind of annual migration that leaves the experts in awe. Monarch butterflies weigh less than half a gram, but travel thousands of kilometres on tissue thin wings. Ryan Norris is an associate professor of biology at the University of Guelph, and he's an expert on animal migration. He joined us from our studio in Saint John, New Brunswick.

This segment was produced by The Current's Chris Wodskou, Pacinthe Mattar and idella Sturino.

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