Thursday, February 18, 2016


Once a year the Monarch Butterfly Migration reaches its culmination in Mexico.  At the Rosario Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve the butterflies arrive for their winter retreat lasting five months. Starting in early November, on the Day of the Dead, millions of monarch butterflies arrive after their 3,000-mile journey from eastern Canada and the United States to mate.

The UNESCO protected World Heritage site is located in the mountains of  the eastern part of the State of Michoacan, Mexico. Each year millions of the Monarch Butterflies (Danaus Plexippus) arrive at the reserve. They are the fourth generation of the butterflies that left this very location just seven months before.  Each of three generations live just one month but as if selected by God, this current generation lives about nine months. It must be the same Hand of God that leads this generation to return to this very spot.

This years population at the reserve is estimated at one and a quarter billion butterflies. In cool weather they cluster on tree branches and in warm weather they are flying everywhere.
We started our trip in San Miguel de Allende with a five hour bus ride to the Aqua Blanca Hot Springs Resort in Jungapoe, Michoacan. The Resort is in a beautiful canyon flowing with hot springs and natural beauty.


Upon arriving at the Resort we were treated to a luncheon on the grounds.  Spring is just coming to this area and the trees and flowers were in bloom. We were about 150 miles south of San Miguel de Allende and much lower in altitude. The Resort is hidden in a valley with hot springs flowing out of many different springs.

Mexican Buffet served on the grounds.

The next morning it was off to see the butterflies.  The Rosario Biosphere Reserve is at about 10,000 feet and depending on where the butterflies were today it could be higher. We were all prepared for colder weather at the higher altitudes.
The butterflies start their annual migration from here in March by flying north to Texas. There they breed and the next generation continues the journey north. There will be two more generations before they begin the return to Mexico. Each of the first three generations live only a little over one month each while the fourth generation lives approximately eight months. It is the fourth generation that makes the return trip and winters in the high mountains. How they make this miraculous journey is yet to be determined.


When we arrived at the Reserve some chose to hike to the top and some chose to ride horses.  I took the horse, the climb from the parking lot to the camp headquarters was enough for me. The weather was warmer than expected and the butterflies were already active and flying as low as the basecamp.  Our guide, Norman, said this was a good sign. When we reached the top the skies were filled with millions of butterflies. In the air, on the ground drinking from streams and clustering on trees.  

We learned to tell the difference between the male and female.  Yes, some of us needed to be taught. The first one below is the female and the second is the male.  The females has thicker bands on her wings than the males and the males have two black dots on the lower part of the wing. That is enough for the biology lesson today.



I would like to thank the people at Travelian Tours for hosting this wonderful trip.  It was well organized and the tour guides were delightful.  Thanks to Anita at Aqua Blanca Resort for taking care of us and provides great meals. Also the guys below who provided the horses that saved me from the 800 foot vertical hike to reach the nesting grounds.  These guys were great.

Thanks, J. F. "SUGAR" Hudson