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The Great Migration: Kansas City cyclist bikes monarch butterflies' 10,000-mile journey

Posted: 3:58 PM, May 04, 2017
Updated: 2017-05-04 18:05:57-04

If you've seen a monarch butterfly, you've caught a glimpse of an unparalleled phenomena. But few of us will ever have the view wildlife biologist Sara Dykman  does.

"This is one of the most unique migrations on the planet. It is the only insect that has a multinational, multi-generational migration," said Dykman. "The monarch migration is one of the most spectacular migrations on the planet so I figured, why not? People know the monarch travels from Mexico but they aren't as impressed as when I travel from Mexico." 

Dykman is biking the full monarch migration from Mexico, through the U.S., up to Canada and then looping back south of the border. It's through her Butterbike project, which will take her 10,000 miles across the three nations.

Photo courtesy BeyondABook.org

"The monarch is a symbol of how the U.S., Mexico and Canada are connected," she said. "Losing this migration would be tragic is so many different ways. The monarchs pollinate flowers and if there are millions of monarch that used to pollinate our flowers, what happens when those pollinators are gone? It would be sad from the standpoint of it was under our watch that the monarch disappeared from the planet." 

And that's a real fear for those who care about this species.

"When their numbers drop by what is estimated to be 90 percent over the last 20 years or so, something is wrong," explained Patrick Martin, the refuge manager at  Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge . "It is a human-altered landscape. We get a lot of benefits from the earth and this is one indication that we are not paying attention the way we should be."

Photo courtesy BeyondABook.org

Which is why Dykman is making this migration of sorts. She's not only become one with the butterflies, but she also stops at schools and community centers along the way. By the end of her journey, she will have spoken to thousands about how they can help boost the butterfly numbers.

Thursday she stopped at Rockville Elementary School in Louisburg, Kansas to talk to kindergarten, 1st-graders and 2nd-graders about how they can get involved.

"Everyone along the route can help the migration by planting milkweed and nectar plants in your yard," said Dykman. "The monarch migration is in danger of extinction. Every year there are less and less monarchs and the reason is there is less habitat for them."

Photo courtesy BeyondABook.org

Dykman continues her journey north to Canada, east to New England, then will head back south to Mexico. She expects to wrap up the 10,000-mile bike ride right around Thanksgiving.

Read more about her journey on her website, www.BeyondABook.org .