Images of Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly Body Parts

This species of monarch butterfly is best known for its winter migration from Canada and Mexico.

Monarch Butterflies during evolution
The Monarch Butterflies are from a family scientifically called danaus plexippus, with characteristics that make them stand out from the rest in terms of shape, size and color.

monarch's biosphere

Its approximate size is 9 to 10 centimeters.  They have an approximate weight of up to 75 milligrams.

Characteristics of the monarch butterfly

A curious fact is that at the level of the whole body and primarily on the antennas is the sense of touch of the butterflies.

monarch butterfly

Did you know that… Males of monarch butterflies are slightly larger and have a black dot on each rear wing that releases their pheromone to attract females.

sanctuaries of the monarchs

The characteristic color of the wings is also due to a defense mechanism. For the natural predators of these insects the color warns them perhaps that they are poisonous or potentially dangerous insects.

Monarch butterfly in Mexico The habitat where they are found since they are generally not found in a single site due to their constant annual migration.

how to care for monarch butterflies in sanctuaries

The places where they are commonly found are in areas with abundant pastures, open locations, such as gardens and forests.

What monarch butterflies feed on throughout their evolution are ascetic plants and wildflowers

biosfera de la mariposa monarca

While growing, they initially feed on the eggshells from which they emerge and then on the leaves of the cotton plant which are toxic.

alimentacion de la mariposa monarcaAt present there is a great variety of this plant, approximately more than 120 species. And, besides the asclepias there are also other plants that produce nectar from which it serves as food.

Some butterflies head towards European countries like Spain and Great Britain due to the air currents that are beneficial, some have even been located in the Tenerife Islands.

de donde provienen las mariposas monarcasThey are located in Mexico from areas located in the Rockies, Great Lakes, descend through an area called Sierra Madre de Oriente, enter the Altiplano thanks to the low mountains that exist there and thus reach Michoacan and other states of Mexico.

como cuidar las mariposas monarcasThey are also considered by many experts in the area as one of the most evolved insects, with greater capacity to adapt and survive in the climatic situations where they are located.

evolucion de la maripsas monarcasIn Mexico this type of monarch butterfly species is under threat due to the climatic changes that the environment has undergone in recent times.

It takes approximately 3 to 8 days for the eggs to develop into caterpillars.

leyendas de las mariposas monarcasThe monarchs are threatened by different types of predators, among them squirrels and birds, mice, and all those invertebrates that live on the ground.

que son las mariposas monarcasThey are usually not in one place due to their constant annual migration. As we well know the type of habitat is terrestrial and, it can be located at southern level towards the third quarter of the year, while for the spring season they are located in the north.

santuarios de las monarcasThe Aztec tribe maintains the legends about the monarch butterflies with the tradition that the butterflies are related to the Goddess of beauty and flowers.

tamaño e las mariposas monarcasIn the Mayan tribe the monarch butterflies represent the soul of the warriors who died during sacrifices or battles.

habitad de las mariposas monarcasThe Monarch Butterflies were considered to be “Daughters of the Sun” since they arrived during the beginning of the spring sun.

imagenes de la mariposa monarca

It is said that the butterflies go to the Queen of Flowers and Joy (Xochiquetzal) to grant this wish as thanks for the butterfly’s liberation.

Reserva de la biosfera

This legend about the monarch butterflies tells that for the ancient Mexicans these species of insects symbolize the warriors fallen in battles or those sacrificed in stones.

Monarch Butterfly Body Parts

In this article you will discover which are the parts of the body of a monarch butterfly, since it is constituted in two phases. Divided by certain sections that complement them, the larva phase and the adult phase.

Next, in this article we will detail each of the body parts of a monarch butterfly and we will also provide answers to questions such as: what are the phases of this species?

🐛 Body Parts of a Monarch Butterfly Larva phase

As all types of butterflies the monarch has a life cycle, the larval phase begins to eat a type of asclepias leaves. This is the only type of plant that it can eat and that makes it grow.

It should be noted that to reach pupa, the larvae go through 5 periods that last approximately 15 days, as well as the front tentacles in larvae in the fourth phase measure almost half of what they measure in the fifth, so that the size is differentiated a little.

Body

The body of the larva grows so much that it is impossible for it to stay long in its old skin, in order to finish growing it will change its skin, it is released until it exposes the new one, and they also eat its skin.

When the last shedding of skin is finished, it looks for a suitable place and starts weaving a silk mesh. Where she grabs it with her legs and they will hang upside down making a J shape. This one gets rid of her old skin, so it will be the most difficult one since, it is upside down.

Front Tentacles

As it grows, the front tentacles in the larval phase take on different sizes. This goes from 0.3 to 11.0 mm. These will look like small bumps.

Rear Tentacles

The back tentacles will take a size of 0.9 to 4.0 mm, these will be almost visible, in each phase they will take different aspects.

Cephalic Capsule

It is very easy to recognize the phases of a butterfly, since it is recognizable to appreciate its size from the cephalic capsule. As this capsule grows at the same time, the tentacles increase together with the rest of the body.

You can then know and compare the size of the cephalic capsule of the 5 phases of a monarch butterfly larva.

Phases of the cephalic capsule:

  1.  0.6 mm in diameter.
  2. 0.8 mm in diameter.
  3. 1.5 mm diameter.
  4. 2.2 mm diameter.
  5. 3.5 mm diameter.

Partes del Cuerpo de una Mariposa Monarca

🦋 Adult Monarch Butterfly Body Parts

The body parts of an adult monarch butterfly are very different from the phases mentioned above, as these have already emerged from the cocoon. These have a skeleton formed by different resistant fractions for the survival of the same one.

Head

One of the main body parts of a monarch butterfly is the head, since it is the carrier of the sensory organs.

Antenna

The antennae or palps are also located on the head of the monarch butterfly which have the function of tactile, auditory and olfactory senses. In the case of females, they use them to know and locate where to deposit their eggs.

Males use their senses to detect the opposite sex. On the other hand, these are a kind of tube, which are rolled up when not used and when used, they are extended to suck the nectar from the flowers.

Compound Eye

Likewise, it is composed by the eyes that allow the capture of the images to those around them. Being their vision one of the most developed parts of them.

Chest

In the back of the head, there is the thorax that forms part of the body of a monarch butterfly. Likewise, it is distributed by three parts that are united among them, they are constituted by long and very thin pastes.

It is also accompanied by the femur which forms part of the body of a monarch butterfly. So they have a pair of nails so that they can hold on, in addition they are atrophied and have taste cells.

Abdomen

This at the beginning of the abdomen has the tympanic sensory organ, which allows them to detect any noise or vibration, as a warning signal of possible enemies or companions of their own species.

Wings of the Body Parts of a Monarch Butterfly

The wings are also part of the body of a monarch butterfly, they are of a thin membrane linked by nerves and veins. They are also covered by millions of scales presented in different forms. Making them in the shape of a tile to have a beautiful color.

It can be said that they are a type of small, thin plates whose scientific name is derived from the word lepidoptera. They contain a small membrane that prevents them from being destroyed by water and so they are resistant.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find some frequently asked questions about the body parts of a monarch butterfly. Where you can get out of all the questions about the subject.

How many body phases does a monarch butterfly go through?

Like all types of butterflies, the monarch has a life cycle, the larval phase beginning with eating one type of leaf asclepias. This is the only type of plant that the monarch butterfly can eat and the one that makes it grow.

It should be noted that to reach pupa, the larvae go through 5 periods that last approximately 15 days.

What is the Color of a Monarch Butterfly?

They are easy to identify due to the very particular orange color of the wings, which are bright and in which black veins with white spots are reflected.  The coloring adopted by the scales is due to pigmentation processes through their content in the diet; or by a mechanism where light is refracted on the surface, generating aspects and colors with metallic tones.

How big are Monarch Butterflies according to their Phases?

Below you can find out and compare the size of the cephalic capsule of the 5 phases of a monarch butterfly larva.

Phases of the cephalic capsule:

  1. 0.6 mm in diameter.
  2. 0.8 mm in diameter.
  3. 1.5 mm diameter.
  4. 2.2 mm diameter.
  5. 3.5 mm diameter.

Evolution of the Monarch Butterfly

The Evolution of the Monarch Butterfly Over time has been historically legendary. They are best known for making their journey from Mexico to Canada, performing as an insect ambassador of nature.

They are also considered by many experts in the area as one of the most evolved insects, with greater capacity to adapt and survive in the climatic situations where they are located.

On the other hand there have been several projects that seek the protection of this species of butterflies, so their migration is within sanctuaries like ours, if you want to know more continue browsing our website to find more information.

🦋 Extinction of the Monarch Butterfly

In Mexico this type of monarch butterfly species is under threat due to the climatic changes that the environment has undergone in recent times. Likewise, the evolution of the Monarch Butterfly and the pressures exerted by the sites where this species lives are enormous.

So, these are not the only ones that depend on the same habitat, in this case forests. The population growth has caused the felling of the trees destroying the spaces. 

Where also the clearing or thinning damage the forests making him inhabit this in the cold nights and hot days for lack of trees. Thus reducing all possibilities of life for monarch butterflies.

Tragic Record of the Disappearance of the Monarchs

In the year 2016 in the count of this species, it was deduced that in the last 20 years the monarchs were reduced by more than 50%. where there was a population of almost 200 million butterflies.

This decline has not only extinguished this species, but many more. This brings a tragic record of disappearance, so it is important to take care of their habitat as the migration of monarchs are at risk even more every day.

Evolución de la mariposa monarca

🧬 Monarch Butterfly Evolution Cycle

It takes approximately 3 to 8 days for the eggs to develop into caterpillars. They also go through 9 to 14 days passing through 5 larval stages. So their first phase is green.

Then in the second phase they take on some color forming white, black and yellow patterns and the tentacles begin to grow at about 0.3 mm. In the third phase they sprout bandan all over the abdomen then in the fourth they take more white color in the thorax and in the last phase they have a more complex pattern of white color.

The metamorphosis of the evolution of a monarch butterfly, this leaves the chrysalis expands its wings and flies. To know more about the parts of the body of a butterfly during its evolution visit our article.

🌿 Monarch Feeding During Evolution

What monarch butterflies feed on throughout their evolution are ascetic plants a wildflowersers. Being these fundamental for the life of the same one, when it is in the phase of caterpillar it eats so much of these plants that they increase their original weight.

Asclepiadaceae plants contain a poisonous liquid, to the caterpillar this toxin does not make any type of damage but if it makes it poisonous. So that when it is an adult, thanks to this type of silver, it will be able to scare away its predators.

🐍 Threats to Monarchs During Their Evolution

The monarchs are threatened by different types of predators, among them squirrels and birds, mice, and all those invertebrates that live on the ground. As previously mentioned, other threats include climate change, pesticides, and logging, which are causing their spread.

Monarcas durante evolución

Frequently Asked Questions

Next in the following section you will find some frequently asked questions about the evolution of the monarch butterfly, we invite you to continue reading our article to clarify all the doubts.

🐛 Why do Monarch Butterflies become extinct?

In Mexico this type of monarch butterfly species is under threat due to the climatic changes that the environment has undergone in recent times. So, they are not the only ones that depend on the same habitat, in this case the forests. The growth of the population has caused the felling of the trees destroying the spaces.

🍃 What do Monarch Butterflies Feed On?

What the monarch butterflies feed on throughout their evolution are ascetic plants and wildflowers, which are fundamental to their life.

🌎 Where Do Monarch Butterflies Live?

They are generally not found in one place due to their constant annual migration. As we well know, the type of habitat is terrestrial and can be located in the south towards the third quarter of the year, while for the spring season they are located in the north.

Monarch Butterfly Migration

On this website we love monarch butterflies! That’s why we try to clear up all those doubts that may arise regarding these wonderful insects. Below you will find all the details about the migration of the monarch butterflies and discover with us where they come from when they arrive in Mexico to rest in the sanctuaries.

Migración de las mariposas monarcas

A peculiarity worth admiring about monarch butterflies is that they are very characteristic for making long migrations of up to one year. These migrations are towards the south approximately for the months of October or beginning of November, while for spring they migrate towards the north.

We must differentiate the colonies of these butterflies. Those that are located on the east of the Rocky Mountains, which is almost always 95% of the total population found in North America, go into hibernation in Michoacán and Mexico. These hibernation sites were added to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. They are catalogued as sanctuaries and because of their great importance to nature, they were declared Natural Heritage for Human Beings by UNESCO.

On the other hand, the population that lives in the west of the mountains are a little smaller; and they are 5% of the entire population. They are going to fulfill their hibernation cycle in the coastal areas of the central region of the USA, commonly Santa Cruz and Pacific Grove and California.

🦋 Where Do Butterflies Come From?

They are considered one of the families of insects that have the ability to perform transatlantic migrations. Some butterflies head towards European countries like Spain and Great Britain due to the air currents that are beneficial, some have even been located in the Tenerife Islands.

Migración de las mariposas monarcas

During the autumn season, which is usually for September to October, the butterflies that come from the west travel from Canada to the U.S. coast, especially California, this in order to stay in winter in wooded areas that have eucalyptus trees. While those from the east head towards central México to hibernate in forest areas rich in pine and oyamel trees, which are above 3000 meters in height. Throughout the migration process, monarch butterflies travel about 5000 kilometers to shelter in winter, mainly in Mexico, and stay for about 20 weeks. By spring they begin to mate right there in the sanctuaries, and then migrate north again.

Some authors and experts on the subject designate the name of “matusalén” to this species capable of carrying out the whole migratory process, from north to south and from south to north.

On the other hand, it should be noted that there are subspecies that do not make the trajectories; but remain in the sanctuaries of Mexico, there are even some located in the central part of America, the Caribbean and South America. 

Because the sanctuaries were considered national and natural heritage, slashing and burning was totally prohibited; so much so that the areas surrounding the nesting sites were included. In this way, the migration of monarch butterflies currently exists more than 50,000 hectares for the reserve of these butterflies.

🌍 Why do they choose Mexico as a final destination for migration?

There are two simple reasons. The first is that these areas have the exact and perfect conditions for their stay and survival; and two, due to the natural background of the so frequent trips to the sanctuaries; they allowed the creation of a much more stable environment, from the point of view of climate, food and habitat; which provided the preference of the monarch butterflies for these states. They are practically untouchable insects and protected by the governmental entities in charge!

Monarch Butterfly Migration Routes

The migration routes of monarch butterflies are many, including the following:

  • They are located in Mexico from areas located in the Rockies, Great Lakes, they descend through an area called Sierra Madre de Oriente, they enter the Altiplano thanks to the low mountains that exist there and thus they can be found in Michoacan and other Mexican states. 
  • Another group of colonies that are on the Pacific between the ocean and the Rocky Mountains, on the coast of California; and those that live on the Atlantic between the ocean and the big lakes, cross the cities of Florida and Carolina to finally reach Cuba.

At present, it is estimated that each sanctuary contains between 6 million and 20 million of this butterfly class. The decree to protect the sanctuaries is due to the benefits that the migration of monarch butterflies brings to the ecosystem; starting with the food chain. Furthermore, it cannot be denied that the peculiar colors are so striking that anyone is impressed and enchanted. For this reason, the State of Mexico created a group of specialists that allows the conservation of these areas for the lodge; so much so that, thanks to the cartography or maps of terrestrial structures, they are always in constant planning to care for and maintain this tourist attraction; which, by the way, is very visited today.

Characteristics of the Monarch Butterfly

It is important to know what the characteristics of the monarch butterfly are, since they are incredible and beautiful insects. They come from a family scientifically called danaus plexippus, with characteristics that make them stand out from the rest in terms of shape, size and color.

This species of monarch butterfly is most recognized for its winter migration from Canada and Mexico. They also have the ability to survive and adapt to different climatic situations. In the following article you will be able to learn more about the beautiful monarch butterflies.

🧐 Morphological Characteristics of the Monarch Butterfly

In this article you will find the morphological characteristics that make up a monarch butterfly.

Size

Its approximate size is 9 to 10 centimeters.  They have an approximate weight of up to 75 milligrams. It has in common with other insects to possess in its head two and types of eyes, those tiny ones located in the antennas and the biggest ones, formed by many units called omatids.

A curious fact is that at the level of the entire body and primarily on the antennae is the sense of touch of the butterflies. Male monarch butterflies are much larger than females, have thinner veins and two black circles on each rear wing.

They release pheromones to attract female butterflies. In contrast, females are thinner and have thicker veins.

Características de la mariposa monarca

Characteristics of the Monarch Butterfly Body

Likewise, the monarch butterfly’s body is distributed in two parts, being the thorax and the wings.

Thorax

This is one of the main characteristics of the monarch butterfly, in this or at the beginning of the abdomen they possess the tympanic sensory organ, which allows them to detect any noise or vibration, as a warning signal of possible enemies or companions of their own species.

Wings

They are made of scales that are usually small, with different shape and size. The functionality of these, is to reinforce the structure of the wing to provide greater strength and resistance in flight.

Characteristics of the Color of the Monarch Butterfly

One of the main characteristics of the monarch butterfly, in order to identify them is due to the very particular orange color of the wings. The wings are shiny, with black veins with white dots.

The coloring that the scales adopt is due to processes of pigmentation by means of its content in the diet; or by mechanism where the light is refracted in the surface, generating aspects and colors with metallic tones.

The characteristic color of the wings is also due to a defense mechanism. For the natural predators of these insects the color warns them perhaps that they are poisonous or potentially dangerous insects.

The lower part of the wings are usually lighter, because this allows them to camouflage on the bark of trees or on rocks.

🌎 Where Do Monarch Butterflies Live?

Another characteristic of monarch butterflies is the habitat in which they are found, as they are generally not found in a single site due to their constant annual migration. As we well know, the type of habitat is terrestrial and can be located in the south towards the third quarter of the year, while for the spring season they are located in the north.

The places where they are commonly found are in areas with abundant pastures, open locations, such as gardens and forests. In Central American countries, they are found mostly in forests and in some cases in bushes and deserts.

biosfera de la monarca

🌿 Monarch Butterfly Feeding

What monarch butterflies feed on throughout their evolution are ascetic plants and wild flowers. Being these fundamental for the life of the same one, when it is in the phase of caterpillar it eats so much of these plants that they increase their original weight.

During its growth, initially they feed on the shell of the eggs from which they emerge and then on the leaves of the cotton plant which are toxic. These are the ones that give it the quality to produce and maintain the toxic in its wings. This last one is a great advantage, since besides protecting them, it gives them an unpleasant smell and flavor for their predators.

In the adult form, one of the characteristics of the monarch butterflies is that, in addition to the leaves, they also feed on the nectar of the milkweed. Currently there is a great variety of this plant, approximately more than 120 species. And, in addition to the asclepias there are also other plants that produce nectar from which it serves as food.

How to get to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries

Who wouldn’t like to see a huge number of monarch butterflies? Are you interested in learning how to get to the monarch butterfly sanctuaries? In this space we will show you how to get to the sanctuaries according to their location in the easiest way, either by car or bus, and we will even illustrate the places where you can stay.

Cómo llegar a los santuarios de las mariposas monarcas

Let’s remember that monarch butterflies are a very particular species of lepidopteran insects due to two main characteristics, the combination in their colors (orange and black) and the migratory phenomenon that brings together millions of these species, creating a natural, unique and wonderful event to glimpse.

🗺 How to get to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries in the “Estado de México”?

Getting to the monarch butterfly sanctuaries in the state of Mexico by car is very easy. First of all keep in mind that in Mexico you can find three main sanctuaries where you can go to observe the monarch species, the first one is El Capulín, followed by Piedra Herrada and then La Mesa. To get there by car, follow these simple directions.

In private vehicle

First you must take Mexico’s main road, called the Mexico-Toluca federal highway (you can identify it because it is designated as federal highway #15).

You must drive until you reach the municipality of Lerma or highway #134 which is basically an intersection where you will find some signs with directions.

It is important that you identify the sign on the right hand side by the kilometer #138, which indicates the direction to Atlacomulco, Guadalajara Morelia or Valle de Bravo, to take that direction. 

Later on you will find yourself in this road, follow carefully all the signs that lead you to Valle de Bravo, for more understanding, you will drive until you find the state road #15 where a monument known as Miguel Aleman is located, get on this road, which will finally lead you to Valle del Bravo.

Finally, in approximately ten minutes get ready to locate the sanctuaries and live this wonderful adventure.

By bus or public transport

The first thing to do to know how to get to the monarch butterfly sanctuaries is that you have to get to the Poniente terminal and exit in the Observatory’s Metro. The variation depends on which sanctuary you wish to attend. In the case of El Capulín, you must take the subway in the direction of Zitácuaro and once in this city take a cab to the sanctuary. While, for La Mesa, the subway must go to Villa Victoria and San José del Rincón, you get off at the Guadalupe station and board a cab that takes you to the sanctuary.

🗺 How to get to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries in the State of Michoacan

If you are interested in visiting those in Michoacán, you can follow these routes in your own vehicle or by bus, which will show you in a simple way how to get to the monarch butterfly sanctuaries, whichever one you want to attend.

Santuario El Rosario

  • By car. You must drive from Mexico City to Toluca City. Once here, take the highway or highway number 15 towards the city of Morelia, arriving finally at Zitácuaro; which belongs to the municipality of Ocampo. When you arrive to Zitácuaro, approximately to 9 kilometers you will find a deviation to the right that belongs to San Felipe de los Alzati, you must continue by that route until arriving to the City of Ocampo, where the sanctuary is located and to which you can accede of direct way in this city.
  • Bus. If on the contrary your adventure is programmed by bus, the route will be the following one. We recommend that you leave from the Poniente terminal, located in the Observatorio’s subway station that goes in the direction of Zitácuaro. You can find mainly two lines of transport that leave around every 30 minutes.

The advantage of going by bus, is that when you arrive at the city of Zitácuaro you can find buses or trucks that go to Ocampo and Angangueo, some even go directly to the sanctuary of the Rosary.

Santuario Chincua

  • By car. You can use the same route mentioned to visit the Sanctuary el Rosario, only that the one in Chincua is further away. You must cross Angangueo and then head towards San José del Rincón in the Estado de Mexico, after about 8 kilometers you will find an area called Llano de las Papas; you will notice that there is a research center that belongs to the biosphere reserve of the monarch butterfly, and on the left side is Cerro Prieta, where we finally identified the Chincua Sanctuary.
  • Route by bus. The best terminal to leave is Poniente in the Observatory’s Metro, heading towards the city of Zitácuaro. Once you arrive to this, you can take a bus or truck to Angangueo, and in this last one; you can rent a particular car type cab that leaves you on the Llano de las Papas to finally access the sanctuary.

🏨 Where to Stay During Visits to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries

Now that you know how to get to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries, it is time to think about where to stay when you arrive at your destination.

Fortunately, the sanctuaries are located in areas that over time became tourist, so there are many places where tourists or visitors can stay.

All the sanctuaries of the monarch species border on towns that have designated inns, lodges, cabins or hotels for the accommodation of people. There is variety in prices and costs, so there are no excuses not to visit.

  • Cheap lodgings. If your budget is limited, you can find affordable accommodations at the sanctuaries of La Mesa and El Capulín.
  • Varied lodgings. If your budget can be adjusted to your comfort, in Valle del Bravo you can find from simple cabins or inns to 5 star hotels.

Finally, in the sites of Angangueo and Zitácuaro, which are the towns surrounding the sanctuaries of Michoacán, you can find a variety of accommodations.

Monarch Butterflies

Surely we have all seen one of these incredible and beautiful insects! They are the monarch butterflies, a family of insects scientifically called danaus plexippus, with characteristics that make them stand out from the rest in terms of shape, size and color.

Monarch butterflies are known almost worldwide due to their intense and incredible migration during the winter periods to North and Central American countries such as Canada and Mexico. They are also considered by many experts in the area as one of the most evolved insects, with a greater capacity to adapt and survive in the climatic situations where they are located.

Monarch butterflies

Next, in this article we will detail each one of the characteristics that make them unique among other butterflies; likewise we will provide answers to questions such as: which are the similar species? and which are the natural predators and parasites of these butterflies?

🧐Morphological Characteristics

Size of Monarch Butterflies

The size of the Monarch Butterfly is approximately 9 to 10 centimeters.  They weigh up to 75 milligrams approximately. Very light!  It has in common with other insects to have in its head two and types of eyes, those tiny ones located in the antennas and the biggest ones, formed by many units called omatidias.  A curious fact is that at the level of the entire body and primarily on the antennas is the sense of touch of the butterflies. Male monarch butterflies are much larger than females, have thinner veins and two black circles on each rear wing. They release pheromones to attract female butterflies. In contrast, females are thinner and have thicker veins.

Monarch Butterfly Body

  • Chest. In this or at the beginning of the abdomen they have the tympanic sensory organ, which allows them to detect any noise or vibration, as a warning signal of possible enemies or companions of their own species.
  • Wings. They are made of scales that are usually small, with different shape and size. The functionality of these, is to reinforce the structure of the wing to provide greater strength and resistance in flight.

Color of Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterflies are easy to identify due to the very particular orange color of the wings, which are shiny and in which black veins with white spots are reflected.  The coloring adopted by the scales is due to pigmentation processes through their dietary content; or by a mechanism where light is refracted on the surface, generating aspects and colors with metallic tones.  The characteristic color of the wings is also due to a defense mechanism. For the natural predators of these insects, the color warns them that they may be poisonous or potentially dangerous.

Monarch butterflies feed on a plant whose sap is supremely toxic; so yes, they are poisonous and generate bad taste in the mouths of predators.  The lower part of the wings are usually lighter, because this allows them to camouflage on the bark of trees or on rocks.

🌎 Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle

Monarch butterflies have four stages within their life cycle: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and adult. Their main areas of reproduction are in open places, fields where grass is cultivated, among others. Basically, they predominate where cotton plants grow for the development of the larval or caterpillar form.  In order for the life cycle to take place properly, the climatic conditions in which the areas where the eggs are to be deposited for reproduction are very influential. In climates of extremely high temperatures they are not able to resist. 

Egg

It first starts as an egg measuring about 1 mm in diameter, which is lodged on the above mentioned cotton balls, also known as asclepias and lasts about 4 to 8 days to hatch.

Monarch Butterfly Larva

The eggs then hatch to give a larva or worm, which will begin to feed on the other eggs laid, as well as the plant where the female lays the eggs. As the larva feeds, it grows into a large, robust caterpillar, which already has the characteristic orange and black pattern. It should be noted that to reach pupa, the larva passes through 5 periods that last approximately 15 days.

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis

After the larval period, a pupa is formed ready for metamorphosis. This stage usually lasts about ten days.

Adult Monarch Butterflies

It is also named after imago, which is ready to take off with its peculiar colors. It generally lasts from two to six weeks, depending on the conditions of the ecosystem in which they are located.

🌿 Monarch Butterflies Feeding

Monarch Butterflies are herbivorous insects, initially feeding on the shells of the eggs from which they emerge and then on the leaves of the cotton plant which are toxic; these are what give them the quality of producing and maintaining the toxic in their wings. This last one is a great advantage, since besides protecting them, it gives them an unpleasant smell and flavor for their predators.

Although the Asclepias plant produces toxins that are acidic and harmful, monarch butterflies can take this poison and digest it to deposit it on all their skin; providing their body with a protective shield, which acts by diminishing the appetite of the predators that stalk them.  In the adult form of the monarch butterflies, besides the leaves they also feed on the nectar of the milkweed. Currently there is a great variety of this plant, approximately more than 120 species. And, in addition to the asclepias there are also other plants that produce nectar from which it serves as food.

🗺  Where does the monarch butterfly live?

Generally, Monarch Butterflies are not found in a single site due to their constant annual migration. As we well know, the type of habitat is terrestrial and, they can be located in the south of the American continent towards the third quarter of the year, while for the spring season they are located in the north.

monarch butterfly in flower

Monarch Butterflies are commonly found in areas with abundant grasses, open localities, gardens and less commonly in forests. In Central American countries they are located a lot towards the forests and in some cases in bushes and deserts.   The areas with higher temperatures are not the most pleasant for these butterflies.

Monarch Butterfly Migration

For monarch butterflies, migration is the process of adaptation that allows them to survive. When the time of sunlight begins to diminish and cold airs approach that drastically lower the temperature of North or Central American countries, monarch butterflies are forced to begin migrating to warmer areas; because they are not capable of regulating their internal temperature, coupled with the lack of food for the duration of the winter that causes slowing in the cotton plants, the main source of food for the butterflies.

All this allowed this species to develop physiological and morphological characteristics to resist and be able to fly long distances for a long time. They are considered the best in their adaptation and survival mechanisms.   The monarch butterflies begin the migratory process first towards the south, to take advantage of the air currents that are generated and thus plant their eggs and replicate the reproductive process.  At the beginning they arrive to the wooded areas of Mexico for the months of August to October and they stay here for five months. They group in colonies and locate healthy and mature trees with very humid canes to protect themselves from the strong climatic changes that are coming.  For the months of December to January, the objective is mainly survival.

They can be seen during these seasons, flying over the branches or in the middle part of the trees, since the wind currents are not so strong in this area, and the temperatures do not reach the extreme limits. They are grouped together at night and on cloudy or rainy days to generate heat between them. However, on occasions they rest excessively on the clusters of branches, which leads to the weight detaching the branch and the consequent fall of many of them, leaving them vulnerable to the cold and devastation.

🦋 Species Similar to Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies are a type of insect that belongs to the family of butterflies called brush legs, scientifically called Nymphalidae.

Mariposa monarcaNowadays there are other species that are very similar to the monarch butterflies. The three main ones are described below:

Queen Butterfly

Queen Butterfly scientifically named after Danaus gilippus. Unlike monarchs, in this species the females are much larger than the males, they can reach up to 30 centimetres in diameter and more or less 8 cm long. They can weigh up to 12 grams. It is a giant variety, without a doubt. In addition, they can vary in colour, they are not always the characteristic orange colour with black veins.

Soldier Butterfly

Soldier Butterfly is scientifically named Danaus eresimus and measures approximately 0.7 cm in diameter. It has a variety of colours from brown to reddish and may or may not have white spots; the veins are much finer and slightly black. In some cases, their spots are not round but square.

Viceroy Butterfly

Viceroy butterfly known to scientists as Limenitis archippus. They have bright red wings, with a single black border on the edge of their wings. This border has a row of rounded dots. Unlike monarchs, the black lines do not represent the veins, but rather tubules that enhance the strength of their wings. These wings are bright reddish-orange, with a black stripe along the edges of the wings. The stripe has a row of white dots. Due to the composition of its wings, advances in visual technology have been developed through this species.

🐍 Natural Enemies of Monarch Butterflies

Thanks to the plant on which the monarch butterflies feed, they synthesize a poison that is used for their protection. However, even though in their evolutionary stages both caterpillars and imago already contain the poison in their bodies, there are certain predators that can feed on them, one of the main ones being birds, for example the following:

  • Tuner bag and dark back bag, which selectively feed on some parts of the monarch butterflies, basically the muscles located in the thorax and the adipose tissue of the abdominal part; therefore the skin that presents the toxic content discards it.
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak. In this case, this bird is less selective so it feeds on the entire butterfly.
  • Field mice. Especially the varieties of mice that have black ears like the Peromyscus melanotis that maintain their habitat under the groups of these butterflies in order to wait patiently when they fall dead because of the weather conditions.
  • There are also parasitic microorganisms. The best known is a type of protozoan called by microbiologists as Ophryocystis elektroscirrha. It is widely distributed over North America and evidently affects the survival of monarch butterflies by constantly feeding on them until they are weakened and therefore die.

In conclusion, monarch butterflies are a wonder of nature, not only for their extraordinary and attractive beauty, but for each of the peculiarities that make them worthy representatives of “royalty”.

Tips for visiting the sanctuaries in Mexico

Visiting the sanctuaries in Mexico, where the monarch colonies are located, is one of the best experiences that exist for those who love to enjoy nature. To be able to contemplate the beauty of these species and understand a little more than what is illustrated in the bibliographies is unique; to see how these small insects are able to migrate such a long way and gather at a destination far from their habitat without a marked route.

Santuarios en México

You can’t miss this amazing phenomenon for anything in the world, so below we are going to give you some recommendations that you should take into account to enjoy this adventure to the fullest.

Official Opening Date of the 2020-2021 season is November 28, 2020

🦋 Timetables and Costs of the Sanctuaries in Mexico 🦋

We know that the main thing to schedule a trip to these sanctuaries in Mexico is to organize a budget. For that reason, we will indicate you briefly in a comparative chart about the approximate costs and schedules of each one of the sanctuaries in Mexico (always remember that these values can vary according to the conditions of these sites) and based on that you can make the election of which one to visit according to your needs and comforts.

Sanctuaries Costs in Mexican pesos Timetables
El Rosario Adults: 80 pesos.

Children: 50 pesos.

Horseback riding: 150 pesos

Between 08:00 am to 05:00 pm.
Sierra Chincua Adults: 80 pesos.

Children: 50 pesos.

Between 08:00 am to 05:00 pm.
El Capulín It varies from 30 pesos to 40 pesos. Between 09:00 am to 05:00 pm.
Piedra Herrada  Adults: 80 pesos. Between 09:00 am to 05:00 pm.
La Mesa Adults: 80 pesos. Between 09:00 am to 05:00 pm.

This means, that you can find variety among each sanctuary in Mexico and encourage you to start this incredible journey.

🧮 Activities You Can Do When Visiting the Sanctuaries in Mexico

Although the main tourist attraction are the monarch butterflies and contemplate this species, there are other activities that visitors can do in addition to the above.

  • Horseback riding. Most of the sanctuaries in Mexico offer this type of ride, they are even one of the best means to access some of them and once there enjoy the landscapes of these sites and their incredible climate, but riding horses.
  • Activities or services specific to each sanctuary. Depending on the site you visit, there are some that offer recreational activities such as, climbing walls, going over hanging bridges and even going on the zip line.
  • Piedra Herrada Sanctuary. This one in particular has an artificial lake where water sports are practiced, which are another tourist attraction.
  • Cultures or traditions of the towns or villages. Each locality near the sanctuaries in Mexico has its own typical customs, so tourists can get to know and enjoy the main plazas or municipal markets, taste the typical food, acquire objects with their own brands as souvenirs and even take advantage of the viewpoints with beautiful views that each town has.

🧐 How to Care for the Sanctuaries in Mexico?

Because of their great importance, this is what you should do if you visit the monarch butterfly sanctuaries in Mexico, emphasizing that you should also comply with the rules and regulations of each site.+

  • Don’t tease the butterflies! Remember that they are places of refuge, and the one who is invading their territory is you. Therefore, do not try to take them or grab them, allow them to rest peacefully for their return home.
  • Do not go near them! Remember to always keep your distance from the monarch species, as they are very sensitive to movement and must move or flutter around consuming energy needed for hibernation.
  • Stay on track! Avoid making detours during the tour, they are sites with very large natural spaces and you could get lost and even suffer some trauma because you don’t know the area.
  • It is totally forbidden to smoke, start fires, or use the camera flash! First of all, any small flame can initiate a catastrophe to the point of forest fire that would end the sanctuary and millions of butterflies. In addition, the flash of the cameras acts as light causing sensitivity in the butterflies and therefore the need to move to other spaces, weakening their body and leaving them exposed to cold or predators.
  • Respect the time limit! This can be around 20-30 minutes depending on the sanctuary, and cannot be exceeded to avoid interrupting the butterflies’ rest as they detect high concentrations of carbon dioxide.
  • Do not step on these insects! Whether they are alive or dead, you cannot step on them. They are part of a food chain; moreover, they are currently studying the high chemical concentrations that they emanate when they die and the possibility of correlating that with the migratory phenomenon.

Conclusions

The second most important thing besides living the experience of admiring the monarch species, is to take care and maintain these sites. There are many reasons why these places must be preserved, first they are part of nature to maintain the food chain and the ecosystem, and second, to allow our generations to appreciate this unique natural phenomenon.

Finally, we offer you these recommendations to enjoy a better experience.

Get comfortable! Use comfortable clothes and shoes for the trip, this will facilitate the tours that are in wooded areas, usually with land. Make sure you wear sport shoes, closed and preferably with grip to brake in uneven areas.

Prepare your body and bring your water supply! It is recommended that you prepare your body before your visits, conditioning your body for the long journeys in different terrains, avoiding that you may suffer from some collapse due to lack of air. Also, it is always good to take your water with you to replace all the liquids lost through sweat and to avoid getting dehydrated. If you can take some sweets with you in case of low tension or important energy losses due to the walks, it is advisable to take them.

If you like it, you can buy or acquire souvenirs in the local stores nearby, thus promoting tourism and internal trade.

Don’t pollute! As in every place, spaces must be kept clean and safe. Always dispose of waste or residues in the corresponding garbage cans or baskets.

Follow the guide’s instructions! In addition to the above, the instructions of the guides, who are trained and qualified for this purpose, must be followed.

Visiting the sanctuaries of the monarchs is a beautiful experience; however, before going you should know what are the things you should or should not do so that these places are kept in an optimal state of conservation for the butterflies. For this reason, here we have brought you the answers to the frequently asked questions about the monarchs’ sanctuaries.

Santuarios de las monarcas

❌ Can I take a Butterfly from the Monarch Sanctuaries?

The answer is definitely NO. The Monarch Sanctuaries act as a refuge for these species; so the main reason is to protect them from both climatic changes and damage by human force. Detailing from the scientific point of view, if a person takes, touches or takes a butterfly he is causing chaos in the maintenance of the ecosystem.

Let us remember that they are formed by delicate scales on their wings, which allow them to carry out the prolonged flight and protect themselves from strong climates; by diminishing this scale or hurting the wings of the insect, sooner or later the death of the butterfly is being propitiated. In addition, they cannot be taken because the sanctuaries of the monarchs are hibernation sites and it is prohibited to capture a species to move it to climatologically unstable places that will cause the early inexistence of this one.

And if you’re wondering if they’re already dead, can I take them away? The answer is still NO for two reasons. The first is that, when they die, these species become food for their natural predators such as birds and mice, maintaining the food chain; and the second is because recent studies have detected high chemical concentrations in the air when the species dies; hypothesizing that it may be a mechanism of attraction for the other butterflies to locate the hibernation site.

On the other hand, from the legal point of view it is totally prohibited to capture or take any species of flora or fauna that is considered as an exotic or endangered species.

🤷♂️ Can I go to the Colonies?

Although it is understandable that visitors wish to get closer to better observe this unique species, they may NOT approach them, the distance indicated by the regulations must be maintained. Basically, monarch butterflies travel about 3,000 miles to the sanctuaries to take refuge and protect themselves from the winter periods that plague their natural habitat sites. During the entire journey, they spend energy to maintain their flight and continue their migration; once they are located in the sanctuaries in Mexico, they proceed to hibernate; that is, they reduce all their metabolic processes by limiting their movements with wings to flutter or fly, they stop their reproduction cycle and in some cases their feeding, this in order to conserve all the energy stored in fat they consumed before starting their migration.

In a phase of hibernation, it is mobilized to consume food and store more energy. If a visitor approaches a group of these butterflies, due to their high sensory-reception sensitivity, they will cause them to flutter, expending energy, separating colonies, and being exposed to strong weather or predators, weakening as a consequence and exercising the opposite objective of the shelters, which is to conserve, protect and prevent their extinction.

📣 Can You Make Noise in the Monarch Sanctuaries?+

Undoubtedly not. Because the monarch species are in hibernation, understanding that they are at rest, no loud noises can be made that alter their well-being and tranquility. Thanks to the fact that they have antennas and bodies capable of perceiving any noise or vibration, if tourists make loud sounds they weaken these insects that need to return to native lands such as the south of the United States and the north of Mexico; since the energy they store is lost when they move around so much due to sonic contamination and the risk of their death increases during the migration back to their habitat. In addition, the loud noises cause a chain reaction of disturbance, since one colony will mobilize with the consequent stimulation of neighboring colonies; to such an extent that the totality of colonies that take refuge there may be weakened with the fatal consequence of a reduction in the monarch population.

📸 Can Cameras Have Flash?

Of course not! The camera’s flash acts as a light projector for the monarch butterflies, which evade completely in order to complete their hibernation cycle in a proper way; therefore, they group themselves in colonies on tree branches or large bushes that protect them from sunlight. If a person registers a photo using a flash, it causes the species to move to avoid this projection of light, which it confuses with the light of the sun; exposing itself to such a point that the branch where these rest can be fractured by so many movements, this causes separation of the colony being unprotected of the climatic changes (cold, heat, frosts, winds) and of its natural predators.

💴 Are the Monarch Sanctuaries in Mexico free?

No, depending on the sanctuary you visit there is a variation in the cost of the entrance. Even though they are declared natural heritage sites, they are also tourist and recreational spaces for all foreign and national visitors. Costs and prices differ according to the sanctuary, its location and the internal services it offers. The income collected is directed to the maintenance of all these places; they allow the conservation of the flora and fauna, hygienic conservation, hiring of personnel trained to care for and protect the sanctuaries in Mexico.  Likewise, the tour guides pay, who besides offering tours, also inform visitors about the curiosities of the species, helping in turn to maintain the rules and regulations for enjoying the tour.

⏳ Is there a time limit for staying at the Monarch Sanctuaries?

Yes, there is a time limit for tourist visits, approximately 20 to 30 minutes, always keeping the distance to the species. And you might be asking yourself why? Basically the limitation for the time of stay of the visitors was established with scientific bases. Monarch butterflies have very characteristic antennae in their morphology that allow them to detect carbon dioxide (CO2); if we remember basic biology, in our respiratory process we expire this gas; and if in one of the sanctuaries in Mexico there is a considerable amount of tourists the concentrations of carbon dioxide will rise. Being captured by the antennas of these species with the consequent effect of flight causing separation of colonies and finally exposure to climate and predators. In short, the population of the monarchs would be decreasing, increasing the chances of extinction.

Monarch Butterflies in Mexico

Did you know that monarch butterflies in Mexico are very important insects? Here are the reasons for this and other relevant details that will help you better understand about these royalty.

The Monarch Butterflies are characterized for being a species with a high migratory volume; since we know that they are capable of migrating up to 5 thousand kilometers, traveling from the forests of Canada to Mexico.

It is considered a species of vital importance to the ecosystem and Mother Nature, as well as a Mexican tradition.

The generations of Monarch Butterflies capable of performing the migration phenomenon have the capacity to live between 7 and 8 months; very characteristic and amazing since compared to other flying insects their life span is much longer.

Mariposas monarca en México

The main importance of monarch butterflies in Mexico is due to the fact that even though in their evolutionary caterpillar form they feed on the shells and plants of the place they inhabit, in their adult or imago form they also produce pollination. And currently it has been described that around 20 million of this species are housed in the sanctuaries. Can you imagine the large number of plants that are pollinated by the monarchs? That’s right, millions of flowers do it thanks to the migratory path of this butterfly species achieving the promotion of genetic variety of the existing flora.

Monitoring Monarch Butterflies in Mexico

The monarch butterflies have been so fundamental that many national and international organizations, as well as companies and government agencies, have implemented mechanisms and strategies for the entire migration process. The fundamental goal is to achieve the recovery of all the areas where the asclepias or cottons develop; because they grow on the weeds in the agricultural fields and can harm the production of fruits, cereals or vegetables; but they are the main reservoir for the females to deposit their eggs. 

On the other hand, the abundance of these butterflies is indicative of stable environmental quality and the possibility of maintaining the ecosystem. In addition, they are part of the food chain for certain birds and mammals, thus maintaining the environmental balance. And, apart from pollination, they serve as food for parasites.

It is said that where there are large numbers of these insects, other species can also be attracted, providing a greater number of pollination and diversity of insects.

From the scientific point of view, they have been considered as model species for many centuries, because, from them, it is possible to investigate areas of biology; it even includes branches of migration, control of plagues, genetic evolution, biological development, dynamics of colonies, preservation of nature, among others.

Thanks to all the studies that have been carried out, the necessary information has been provided on how this class of insects are unsurpassed in geographical migration processes, and on a temporary basis throughout the world. Adding important contributions to the continuous research on climate changes.

Finally, the great cultural importance of monarch butterflies in Mexico is highlighted, as they are indicative of the beginning of corn cultivation for the indigenous peoples of the areas where they live. Farmers already know when they see them that the upcoming climatic conditions will be suitable for their crops. And for this reason, many institutions protect the sanctuaries where monarch butterflies take refuge.

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is a territorial space that covers part of the Estado de of Mexico and Michoacán in the Aztec country. This place occupies an extension of 56,259 hectares of land in the middle of wonderful mountains with thick vegetation where trees and other vegetable species of great value abound.

Reserva de la biosfera

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is located just 100 kilometers northeast of Mexico City. A place so valuable that today it is considered and was declared World Heritage by UNESCO. This reserve is a clear example of how varied nature is in Mexico; even in the mountains surrounding it you can find different microclimates that give the environment a more incredible touch. Added to the flora, the fauna of the place is not left behind; especially the important amount of oyamels that grow and develop in the place having it as their main habitat.

It was on July 8, 2008 when this place in Mexico was declared a natural property or world heritage site by UNESCO. The criteria used for the reserve was the exceptional aesthetics of its natural beauty; even before that designation, the monarch butterfly biosphere reserve was an excellent attraction for those who are passionate about ecotourism.

It is also known as the region of the monarch butterfly, located in the transversal neovolcanic axis of Mexico; it is a protected area through certain government programs that seek to conserve the species found there as well as those that arrive each year, the monarch butterflies.

General Characteristics of the Biosphere Reserve in Mexico 

Despite the fact that the lower parts of the monarch butterfly biosphere reserve have suffered modifications as a result of the agriculture practiced by the population in rural and surrounding urban areas, an exceptional environment is still maintained in the place.

The region is covered by mountains that contain a dense layer of forests formed mainly by oak, pine and oyamel. Likewise, although in smaller proportion, small portions containing juniper, cedar and beautiful meadows are also found.

This ecosystem provided by the oyamel pine forests has direct influence on the conservation status of the reserve; it has also managed so far to be the main attraction of millions of butterflies each fall who travel in groups around 4500 kilometers from the United States and Canada fleeing from the winter climates that threaten their lives.

For a period of 5 months these insects form congregations or colonies that become a natural spectacle worthy of admiration; and what both locals and tourists call the migratory phenomenon of the Monarch. The preference of this butterfly for Mexico’s biosphere reserve is the microclimate and shelter provided by the aforementioned trees, which they take advantage of to shelter from frost and winter rains. 

Because the conservation of the ecosystem is so essential in this site, over the years different decrees have been promulgated by the Mexican government; which aim to maintain the forests in optimal conditions for the butterflies. So much so that only the areas surrounding the three main nuclei are allowed to be logged, as in the latter it is totally prohibited.

 Threats to the Biosphere Reserve in Mexico

Reserva de la biosfera

The biosphere reserve in Mexico, or Monarch Butterfly Region as it is also known, is dangerously threatened by a series of activities whose impacts are merely negative for the ecosystem. This in turn is so complex that it diminishes the population of monarch butterflies.

Among the main causes of these situations, human beings are the number one, since the use of herbicides and deforestation are some of the threats that endanger the biosphere reserve. However, the extreme climate also helps to endanger the efforts being made to conserve the place.

Protecting the area that has been called a world heritage site and that attracts thousands of tourists every year is no longer an easy task; this is evident only by looking at the core of the reserve. Illegal logging is rare, but it still causes havoc and the number of butterflies arriving is dwindling.

Many experts in the field argue that the big problem is that the conservation projects being implemented are focused only on monarch butterflies and not on conserving the entire ecosystem.

 Colonies or Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries in Mexico

For the years 2007 to 2009 the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve already had 8 of the 12 colonies in Mexico where butterflies flying from Canada and the United States arrive to spend the winter.

These 8 colonies or sanctuaries are not entirely open to the public, but only 4 of them; which have been accommodated with the appropriate infrastructure so that the visits of tourists do not hinder the rest of the butterflies. These sanctuaries have the following names:

  • Sierra Chincua
  • La Mesa
  • El Capulín
  • El Rosario

The other 8 colonies are not in a position to serve as a tourist attraction, as the presence of humans in the area puts the butterfly colonies in serious danger.

México´s Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries

Did you know that the monarch butterfly sanctuaries in Mexico are very important areas for these insects? Here we show you all the details about these sites.

Santuarios de las mariposas monarca

According to the most accepted academic definition of sanctuaries, these are places or spaces where natural goods take refuge; that is, flora (plants, trees), fauna (animals of any species), natural events or landscapes that are strange and unique. Precisely because of the latter, they are protected, respected and cared for because they are vulnerable and because of the importance as natural heritage they represent. In the case of the monarch butterflies, the sanctuaries represent natural areas covered by forest where these insects take shelter to hibernate.

The purpose of the sanctuaries in general is to provide protection to everything that lives there, from any change or climatic eventuality in order to save as much energy as possible in the return migration.  In the case of animals, this is because every time they move, fly or run, they lose energy needed for the return journey.

In Mexico, the monarch butterfly sanctuaries are also a natural area known as the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve; reaching approximately 57,000 hectares according to UNESCO, which determined them as a “natural resource with unparalleled beauty” and decreed them as natural property for the year 2008.

They are protected in their entirety by the state where they are found for the conservation of the ecosystem; since monarch butterflies make abundant pollination as they migrate.

Monarch butterfly sanctuaries in Michoacán

El Rosario

This sanctuary of the monarch butterflies “El Rosario” is located in the uppermost part of the mountains. Its route can vary from 1.5 to approximately 2 kilometers, depending on where the butterflies are found. It can be visited on foot or on horseback, and is made up of wooded areas highly rich in pine, cedar and oyamel. It is the most visited because of its proximity and because it is the largest.

It features tour guide services, museums, videos of these species, parking lot, ecological bathrooms, sale of products such as shirts, T-shirts, craft items, T-shirts with allusive themes of butterflies, even typical food of the area.

Sierra de Chincua 

In this sanctuary of the monarch butterfly in the Biosphere Reserve, to visualize the butterflies you need a mountainous and plain route either by foot or by horse of about 2 and a half kilometers; being able to contemplate the insects in couple from the viewpoints for photos, food and baths. One of the sanctuaries with the highest temperature, the second most visited and located in the center of the Biosphere.

It presents one of the greatest varieties of vegetation, for the conservation of thousands of specimens.

Senguio

It is located within the Sierra de Chincua, so its route is much further and can last up to hours; because of this it is the least visited monarch’s sanctuary. It is also one of those that remain open all year round, but in order to see the migration you must visit it during the months of November to March.

Around these sanctuaries you will find places that are indigenous to this country, such as Angangueo, El oro and Tlalpujahua, areas that are attractive for tourists.

Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries in Estado de México

Ejido el Capulín

Ejido el Capulín located very close to an area known as Valle de Bravo. The route is much longer than approximately 4 kilometers and during this one, marvelous landscapes of wooded areas can be evidenced where abundant species of monarchs can be observed. It offers a visual spectacle to be able to contemplate the transition of the flora very attractive for the lovers of the nature; thanks to that they present a wide plain area.

This monarch butterfly sanctuary offers horseback riding, food services and even lodging in cabins at very accessible costs and visit with a tourist guide. You can arrive by your own vehicle or by truck.

La piedra Herrada

La piedra Herrada is located in a place called Nevado de Toluca, where the landscape to be contemplated is made up of multiple mountains up to 3 thousand meters high. In this sanctuary the tree of the monarch butterfly is the oyamel, special so that this one can be developed and to reproduce. The tour takes about 40 minutes, basically it is a slope surrounded by forest and with the sound of the fluttering of these insects.

It is considered as a landscape with prairies, resembling many European countries; because they provide a calm environment for the sanctuary, which pleases the monarchs.

Santuario La Mesa

“Santuario La Mesa” is one of the sanctuaries located in the center of Michoacán and the state of Mexico. It is home to millions of monarchs in the winter season. It offers comfortable and large cabins, capable of hosting up to 20 visitors, restaurants, bicycle routes, lookouts, rooms for multiple uses and even camping areas.

The largest vegetation is oyamel plants, and it is also a refuge for deer, mainly as a breeding ground. It is highly recommended for the nightly spectacle of the butterflies that can be seen in the sky.

Less common sanctuaries

Cerro Altamirano, Sierra del Campanario, Nevado de Toluca, Colonia Palomas, among others.

The importance of these monarch butterfly sanctuaries in Mexico is that those containing the greatest amount of monarchs are the most visited; they are also extremely cared for and protected by national and international organizations, so much so that they were considered national heritage.

There are eight other sanctuaries that are not open to the public because they represent risks of human damage to the butterflies.

Why do monarch butterflies arrive there?

Remember that when the summer period is over, the monarch butterflies begin a migration of approximately 5,000 kilometers to the states of Mexico.

Santuarios de las mariposas monarca

The main reason why monarch butterflies migrate to the sanctuaries is because it is their place of refuge during the winter seasons. And you might think, why don’t they protect themselves from the cold where they live? Well, it’s as simple as they don’t have the morphological conditions to survive such high temperatures.

Sanctuaries offer migratory species the best and most suitable conditions for the hibernation process. It is still not scientifically known how these insects manage to specifically target these areas so far from their natural habitat; however, it is believed that this is a biological condition that allows them to use sunlight and their parts to mark the trajectory.

Another reason is that these sanctuaries contain the plants necessary for their protection, including food and growth. The amount of shrubs, pines, cherry trees and oyamels are very numerous, thanks to this, large quantities of monarchs can arrive.

Factors that attract butterflies to sanctuaries

Monarch Butterfly Climate in Mexico

The monarch butterfly sanctuaries have the necessary climatic conditions for lodging, which is why they are also favored by these lepidoptera. This condition refers to temperate temperatures, geographical location, fauna and hostility.

Food

On the other hand, these sanctuaries are the natural food reservoir for the survival of these insects; the most striking thing is the incredible amount of plants and trees and their latitude, enough to allow them to reproduce and protect themselves from some of the environmental temperature rises. In addition, these sites allow mating due to the diversity of species of monarchs, helping the multiplication and preventing the extinction of these.

Gain weight

Due to the fact that during their migration they spend energy due to the long flight time, these sanctuaries present ancient flora that offers a variety in humidity, temperature and that allows them to feed on nectar; being able to gain weight in order to return to native lands. Another important reason why they migrate to these sites.

Temperature of Monarch Butterflies in Mexico

Thanks to the variety in temperatures within the same sanctuary for the diversity of plants, the monarch species can move towards the most comfortable shrubs. It is said that as they advance they move towards the smaller or lower bushes.

Variety of flora

Because the gradient is so wide, the same vegetation offers water to the butterflies, so they can stay hydrated.

Air currents

The forests or low forests that are located in the sanctuaries, provide currents of air called thermal; helping the insects to rise for their hibernation. And, on the other hand, the mesophilic forests provide high humidity avoiding dehydration.

Genetics

There is a genetic pattern whose scientific cause has not yet been established, related to the migration phenomenon of this species; since it is the new generations (and in some species the old ones) that return to the sanctuaries. Understanding that the parent butterflies inherit the knowledge of the journey.

Geographic location

They migrate to states that are nevertheless close to their common habitat, although they must pass through several areas.

Protection

Cared for by volunteers and sanctuary guards, who prevent contamination, damage, slashing or burning inside, and even capture for lucrative exposure of bad people.

Reproduction of Monarch Butterflies in Mexico

They can be found with other species, these butterflies migrate with the intention of multiplying and maintaining their colony.

Nature

All of the sanctuaries are natural, migratory monarch species are attracted to the ecosystem.

Conservation

Due to the care and maintenance of the sanctuaries, these lepidoptera by genetic memory, identify these sites as temporary homes.

Legends About Monarch Butterflies

There are many myths and legends about monarch butterflies, mainly about the return of this species to nature. The wonderful and incredible thing about these lepidoptera is that they are believed to be the reincarnation of many souls of the dead; above all because their arrival takes place during months of celebration of the Day of the Dead.

Let’s review, what are the main legends about monarch butterflies? And how has this influenced the local population in Mexico? Read on.

Leyendas sobre las mariposas monarcas

As we have just said, in many states of Mexico Monarch Butterflies are considered the reincarnation of the souls of loved ones who come to celebrate the Day of the Dead “Día de Muertos”. They represent a fundamental aspect during the ceremony; to the point of being sacred animals for this population.

On the other hand, there are versions that the souls of loved ones are found in the wings of butterflies and in this way they can pose on the altars; anyway, the inhabitants hold an event where they organize altars with copal and wax offerings for these species.

The Aztec tribe maintains the legends about the monarch butterflies with the tradition that the butterflies are related to the Goddess of beauty and flowers, known as Xochiquetzal; even being considered as spirits of the forest and therefore pay important tributes.

On the contrary, in the Mayan tribe the Monarch Butterflies represent the soul of the warriors who died during sacrifices or battles; these during the trip to the underworld accompany the Sun God, Ra, for four years and later the soul of the warrior is transformed into a butterfly.  Let’s review these legends in detail.

🧐 Legend of Aztec culture

In this culture there are various populations or groups where butterflies represent something in particular. For the Mazahua, the butterflies were dead children turned into protective angels that returned to the earth, they established it by their beliefs when they saw faces in the wings; they considered this species as “Daughters of the Sun” since they arrived during the beginning of the spring sun.

On the other hand, the Teotihuacan groups represented these butterflies as spiritual symbols, so much so that they engraved or represented them for a long time on objects, such as blankets, seal signatures, feather engravings, among many others.

⏳ Nahuatl legend

This is one of the most magical legends about monarch butterflies. In this culture it is believed that if a person gently and delicately whispers a personal wish to a butterfly or wishes for happiness in general and releases it; the butterflies are said to go to the Queen of Flowers and Joy (Xochiquetzal) to grant this wish as a thank you for the butterfly’s release. To date this belief is still held and many people make their wishes.

💪 Legend of the Monarch Butterflies of Guerreros

This legend about the monarch butterflies tells that for the ancient Mexicans these species of insects symbolize the warriors fallen in battles or those sacrificed in stones, those whose souls were found in heaven; and even the women who died in childbirth, all of them reincarnated as hummingbird or butterfly birds. And some much older tribes believed that butterflies were later turned into a Goddess; that she represented love, flowers, joy, vegetation, fire and many other attributes.