Butterflies

I want to go to Mexico for my spring break, but I’ve done the beach party thing. Any suggestions?

A. As college kids crash the border this spring, one of the world’s most magical natural events is going in the opposite direction: the northerly migration of the monarch butterfly. Starting in January but peaking in March, central Mexico’s oyamel fir forest bursts with dazzling orange as 100 million monarchs awaken to begin a 2,000-mile journey to their summer grounds east of the Rockies in the U.S. and Canada. To see the spectacle for yourself, head to the town of Angangueo in Michoacán, the hilly state known for its handcrafted guitars and talented village artisans. Local guides will show you around El Rosario, the only monarch sanctuary open to the public. If you prefer to go outfitted, Natural Habitat Adventures offers trips led by biologists who can explain why monarch populations have been dropping dramatically in recent years. Watching the winged clouds flutter toward their destiny could very well blow your mind—and spare you the hangover.

Holly Morris is a TV host (Treks in a Wild World, Globe Trekker). She is also the author of Adventure Divas and founder of the multimedia company Adventure Divas. Post your travel questions here and they could get answered in the magazine.

Illustration by Kate Miller

Comments

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    November 9, 2010, 8:12 pm
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    November 27, 2010, 8:29 am

    As children, we used to see Monarch butterflies in Los Angeles during some of our hiking activities. These butterfies are amazing. How could they possibley migrate 3,000 miles to North America despite their short life span and paper-thin wings! Unfortunately since mid nineties I stopped seeing them. Although the use of insecticides and herbicides could have eliminated some of their habitat, I think the main reason is that huge numbers of butterflies wintering in Mexico had frozen to death as a result of sub freezing conditions that hit the region for a week or so 1991.

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    Monarch butterflies are not able to survive the cold winters of most of the United States so they migrate south and west each autumn to escape the cold weather and the only insect that are migrates to a warmer climate that is 2,500 miles away each year!!! it is amazing but Monarch butterflies use the very same trees each and every year when they migrate, which seems odd because they aren’t the same butterflies that were there last year! The Monarch butterfly migrates for 2 reasons. They can not withstand freezing weather in the northern and central continental climates in the winter. Also, the larval food plants do not grow in their winter overwintering sites, so the spring generation must fly back north to places where the plants are plentiful. These butterflies truly are amazing!

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