We are so excited to see the mariposas monarcas (monarch butterflies). This was on the list of “must see” things in Mexico and because we moved slower than expected in the USA, the timing worked out.
We missed the whale calving season in Baja, another “must see”. We had a choice at the beginning of our trip. If we went straight to Baja from Houston we could have arrived for this reportedly amazing experience. Instead, we chose to meander through the USA (with no regrets).
The timing worked out for us to see the beginning of the arrival of the monarchs in Mexico. The annual arrival in Mexico begins in late October and peaks in March. Our only choice was which colony to visit (five of the fourteen areas in Mexico are accessible to tourists).
We chose the newest of the biospheres, Cerro Pelon, near to the city of Zitácuaro. The primary reason was the relative lack of tourists. We read that at peak season, the reserve may attract eighty visitors per day, compared to others areas that receive several hundred guests.
Getting to the reserve was not easy. After a steep climb out of Zitácuaro, we arrived at the small town of Macheros. We camped at the recently opened B&B in Macheros, a town at the entrance to the reserve. Joel, a native of Macheros and the young proprietor of JM’s Bed & Breakfast (his second season in operation), indicated, to his recollection, we were the first bicycle tourists to arrive in the town. WanderWheels wins!
Until we post the pictures after the hike to experience the monarchs, some facts will have to suffice:
- Monarch butterflies migrate 2,000 to 3,000 miles (~3,200 to 4,800 km) south over approximately two months. They travel to the forests of Mexico from the United States and Canada — and back, every year.
- There are two monarch populations. The western population migrates from the Rocky Mountains in North America to the Pacific coast. The eastern population migrates east of the Rocky Mountains in the USA and Canada all the way to Mexico.
- Between late October and March, the monarchs cluster in the Oyamel forests, native to the mountains of central and southern Mexico. Here they rest and get their freak on until the spring time.
- Each year, the monarch’s migration takes several generations. It takes three or four generations to complete the trip north. One generation makes the return trip south.
- The first three or four generations live two to six weeks as adult butterflies.
- During the spring, the first generation hatches in the south. They fly north as far as they can, lay eggs and later die.
- The second generation continues the journey, lays eggs, and dies. The third and sometimes the fourth generations hatch through the spring and summer. They finish the journey north.
- At the end of summer, a hardier batch of butterflies hatch that live six to nine months, much longer than the generations before it. This super generation make the return journey south.
- The monarchs will travel 50 to 100 miles (80 to 160 km) a day when migrating. This is typically farther than a day for WanderWheels.