Ar­rival of the Monarch But­ter­fly

The Playa Times Riviera Maya's English Newspaper - - Front Page - BY ALE­JAN­DRA CAMPO ROMO, AN­THRO­POL­O­GIST

Th­ese beau­ti­ful in­sects make their an­nual jour­ney back to the forests of Mi­choa­can in this highly rec­om­mended trip for in­de­pen­dent trav­el­ers

It is breath­tak­ing to see monarch but­ter­flies fly­ing in the thou­sands and cov­er­ing ev­ery inch of the for­est. Be­tween Oc­to­ber to Novem­ber ev­ery year, the mon­archs make their way down from Canada and the U.S. to the pine and fir forests of Mi­choa­can and Mex­ico State, cov­er­ing 5,470 km in search of a warm cli­mate to hi­ber­nate and re­pro­duce.

Among lo­cals, the be­lief ex­ists that the but­ter­flies are the souls of their loved ones who are vis­it­ing, as their ar­rival co­in­cides with Día de Los Muer­tos (Day of the Dead).

Five gen­er­a­tions re­pro­duce each year, but only the fourth gen­er­a­tion of but­ter­flies mi­grate. In spite of this, due to their as­ton­ish­ing ge­net­ics, they re­turn to the same place ev­ery win­ter.

How­ever, over the last 25 years, 90 per­cent of their pop­u­la­tion has van­ished. Be­cause of this, the Monarch But­ter­fly Bio­sphere Re­serve on the bor­der of Mi­choa­can and Mex­ico State was founded in 1980, which is to­day a Nat­u­ral World Her­itage Site.

In 2014, the but­ter­flies cov­ered 1.13 hectares of for­est in Mi­choa­can, rep­re­sent­ing 69 per­cent canopy cover, com­pared to only 0.67 hectares in 2013. The stag­ger­ing pop­u­la­tion de­cline of 2013 was an all-time low. The drop was at­trib­uted to the il­le­gal log­ging in the Mex­i­can forests. As a re­sult, con­ser­va­tion­ists made great strides in crack­ing down on log­gers and were over­joyed when the in­sects re­turned to their win­ter­ing ground in 2014 in larger num­bers.

Habi­tat threats to the monarch also ex­ist in Canada and the U.S. The monarch’s main food source, the milk­weed plant, is quickly dis­ap­pear­ing be­cause of the use of pes­ti­cide and in­dus­trial agri­cul­tural prac­tices.

The best time to visit the re­serve is in Fe­bru­ary and at the be­gin­ning of March. We rec­om­mend you bun­dle up be­cause it gets very cold. Once at the re­serve, it is very im­por­tant to fol­low the guide­lines: don’t touch the but­ter­flies or take them with you, don’t lit­ter, and don’t dis­turb the peace of the sanc­tu­ary.

An­other rec­om­men­da­tion is to eat at the cab­ins in the re­serve and to buy the lo­cal hand­i­crafts as this con­trib­utes to the lo­cal econ­omy and the pro­tec­tion of the but­ter­flies. Af­ter your visit, you can wan­der the pic­turesque streets of the Pue­b­los Mági­cos of Tlalpu­jahua, El Oro, or An­gangueo, which are old min­ing towns from the 19th cen­tury. This is a beau­ti­ful and highly rec­om­mended trip.

The ar­rival of the Monarch But­ter­fly to Mex­ico co­in­cides with the Day of the Dead / Photo: wiki­me­dia

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