Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Monarch Butterflies of Michoacan Mexico

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This is the day I have been looking forward to for a long time. I think it was over 15 years ago that I first read an article about the monarch butterflies and how they migrate to Mexico every year, flying over 3200 kilometers. This mystery has been slowly unraveled over they years and scientists now think that the monarch butterflies that migrate to Mexico from the US and Canada are the 4th or 5th generation away from the ones that migrated from Mexico to the north. In other words, the butterflies that make the trek to Mexico are the great, great, great grandchildren of the previous generation to have made it. They have never been to Mexico before, yet year after year they fly to the same trees near the small town of Angangueo.

There are so many butterflies in the trees their weight bends the branches. This area is at almost 11,000 feet and gets quite cold at night (when we arrived at just after 9:00 a.m. it was only 2 degrees celius). As the sun warms their bodies, they begin to fly around and because of the numbers, you can actually hear the sounds of their wings.

These butterflies have flown down from the trees to land closer to the ground and are warming their bodies up in the sun. They are still very sluggish, so you have to be very careful not to step on the ones on the ground.

We drove most of the way to where the butterflies are, but then hiked for about 45 minutes from a small village to the oyamel trees where they stay the winter. We hired a tour guide by the name of Martin, 12 years old and very fun to have along. You can also hire a horse to take you there, but we enjoyed the hike, even though it was difficult because of the altitude. The whole experience was awesome, and I would go again in a heart beat!