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Millions Of Monarch Butterflies Flock To Mexico
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Millions Of Monarch Butterflies Flock To Mexico

Picture of Lauren Cocking
Mexico Writer
Updated: 9 February 2017
Every October and November millions of Monarch butterflies make their annual migration from the US and Canada to Mexico, landing in sanctuaries throughout both Michoacán and the State of Mexico. Here they will stay for around six months, through to March of the following year. We really recommend that you take the opportunity to see the appropriately nicknamed ‘King of Butterflies’ during the brief window of their south-of-the-border winter vacation.
Lone monarch
Lone monarch | © strudelt/Flickr
Monarch butterflies
Monarch butterflies | © Michelle Tribe/Flickr

Monarch butterflies can be born at four different points of the year; March/April, May/June, July/August and September/October. However, it’s worth noting that only the fourth ‘batch’ of monarchs will be lucky enough to live more than two weeks. It’s that group of butterflies that you’ll be admiring if you stop by one of Mexico’s famed Monarch Butterfly reserves between November and March.

Butterflies on bark
Butterflies on bark | © Scott Clark/Flickr

This natural spectacle can be enjoyed for approximately five months of the year in Mexico, from late October until March, as the butterflies bed down for the winter in some of Michoacán’s high altitude areas. Carpets of orange and black swamp the evergreens in the butterfly reserve, their vast quantity and undeniably exquisite beauty seeming almost unreal. However, while many people assume you can only see monarch butterflies in Michoacán, they also set up shop in certain areas of Mexico State.

Monarch butterflies
Monarch butterflies | © Michelle Tribe/Flickr
Bright orange butterfly
Bright orange butterfly | © Lauren Fritt/Flickr
Monarch butterflies in Valle del Bravo
Monarch butterflies in Valle del Bravo | © Adam Jones/Flickr

It’s estimated that a potential one billion butterflies make this 2,500-mile journey year on year to enjoy their winter months in the treetops of Michoacán. They’re so numerous that the tree branches playing host to the bundles of butterflies often bend and snap under the weight, and the slightest gust of wind can cause thousands of butterflies to take flight.

Monarchs on a tree branch
Monarchs on a tree branch | © Michelle Tribe/Flickr
Monarch migration
Monarch migration | © Luna sin estrellas/Flickr

If you want to see them this winter, we recommend heading to one of the principal Monarch Butterfly Reserves; Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa Monarca. This vast protected area has four principal access points, of which El Rosario is undoubtedly the best known. For visitors wishing to head to this most traversed view point, the nearby towns of Ocampo or Angangueo are recommended for overnight lodging. The other three areas, which offer similarly spectacular although arguably less crowded vistas, are Sierra Chincua, Cerro Pellon and Piedra Herrada, the former of which is best for those who aren’t up to hiking a long way to see the butterflies.

Butterfly on hand
Butterfly on hand | © Jiuguang Wang/Flickr
El Rosario Sanctuary
El Rosario Sanctuary | © Luna sin estrellas/Flickr

If you’d prefer to see them in the State of Mexico though, the Santuario Ejido El Capulin is an excellent option, as is Santuario La Mesa. Alternatively, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to head to the aforementioned Angangueo in February. This is when the town plays host to a Festival de la Mariposa Monarca, which aims to raise awareness about the animals.

Monarchs on the rocks
Monarchs on the rocks | © pendons proditor/Flickr

Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa Monarca, Michoacán, México