One of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world” is how the butterfly migration across North America to Mexico has been described. So it will come as no surprise to hear that Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located just 100 km (62 miles) North West of Mexico City in the area of Michoacán, it means a visit to the reserve from the Rancho is a very doable ‘bucket list’ trip.
Every year up to 1 billion butterflies make their way from eastern Canada during the months of September and October to the forests of western central Mexico. It’s a journey of around 4000 km, or a 5-hour flight with the winds in your favor.
And that’s exactly one of the reasons they come – the good tail winds! That too with the delicious plant nectar (natures own tequila), low rainfall and the good sunshine. In fact many of the same reasons why we see our own guests migrating back to the Rancho again and again!
Their arrival is a phenomenon in itself, as it coincides with a very particular holiday in the Mexican calendar – The Day of the Dead. This is the festival where Mexican people remember their deceased loved ones, taking time to celebrate and commemorate them. The butterflies arrive around the time of The Day of the Dead, and bring with them a belief that every butterfly is the soul of someone deceased migrating back.
But, not only do they arrive at the same time each year, they arrive to the same place each year – the pine and oyamel forests in the mountains of Michoacán. Here they set up their winter homes on the tops of the trees in huge clusters forming a magnificent blanket of orange and black. These clusters completely cover the trees, creating an immense weight that often makes the branches bend and snap.
The butterflies cluster together in order to conserve heat and survive the cold winter temperatures in the mountains, and it is here that they will live for up to 5 months. But as the warm sun starts to come out more frequently during February and March the butterflies begin to become more animated and active: they drink lots of the Mexican plant nectar, find a prospective partner to start mating with and build their strength up ready for making the journey home.
This animated behaviour by the butterflies creates some incredible sights to be witnessed and the sound of their beating wings has been compared to the sound of light rain. February and March make a wonderful time to visit the butterflies.
One of the most phenomenal things is that no one butterfly will ever make the entire journey from Canada to Mexico and back again. So as they gear up to go home in April, who knows where along this incredibly arduous path these colorful souls will lay to rest. One thing we do know however, is this is an example of nature at it’s finest and of the color and magic that leads us all to Mexico.
Make your plans to see the butterflies before they leave. When you make your reservation at the Rancho, let us know you’d like to see them and we’ll make all of the arrangements so you can see this spectacular site.