Experience Monarch Butterflies in Mexico
Butterflies are marvellous insects; their colours, grace and beauty remains an impressive sight to behold. They range in size with different life spans. Studies show there are about 20,000 species of butterflies including Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus).
Monarch butterflies thrive anywhere you find the milkweed plant in abundance. In the America's their range extends from southern Canada in the north to as far south as Mexico City in Mexico.
Despite their paper-thin wings, Monarch butterflies are fantastic flyers with incredible endurance. Flying high on their bright and colourful wings they are best known for their annual migration across the North American continent to coastal California and Mexico, and vice-versa. This immense migration, covering thousands of miles annually, is one of nature's most spectacular events.
The Monarch butterflies live in the temperate area of North America but undertake the journey south to protect their eggs and caterpillar from harm of prolonged winter frost. Monarch butterflies simply can't live in cold and icy climates.
Millions of Monarch butterflies migrating south from North America head south to the state of Michoacán in the central highlands of Mexico.
For a chance to see the amazing fluttering winter roosts of the Monarch butterfly, one needs to visit the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. The Reserve is a World Heritage site named by UNESCO in 2008. It offers protection for eight locations of over-wintering sites in the oyamel fir forests of central Mexico.
The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve offers visitors the opportunity to observe a unique phenomenon; millions of butterflies carpeting the forest floor and weighing down the tree branches. A truly remarkable experience, and if they take flight millions of beating wings will sound like light rain.
The Michoacán Monarch butterfly reserves open to visitors, 9am to 6pm every day, starting mid-November through March. At this period of the year, the Monarch butterflies population is at its peak, particularly from late January through March. However, it is best to avoid weekends to prevent overcrowding.
The Festival Cultural de la Mariposa Monarca is a yearly, week-long festival that takes place around late February and early March. This presents an ideal time to visit while having some fun! However, you need to note that the hotels in Angangueo, a city about 130 miles away from Mexico City, may fill up so book your accommodation far in advance of the event.
Sadly, the number of Monarch butterflies is decreasing every year because of pesticide use, loss of habitat and climatic factors. A little more than twenty years ago the population of Monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico was estimated to be nearly one billion, in 2018 the population is down to approximately 93 million. This is a very much a 'see it while you can' scenario as this iconic orange and black butterfly is severely threatened and at very high risk.