We had to be up early as our bus left at 6 am. We were off on our tour to see the butterflies at Morelia in the state of Michoacán. We walked to the taxi stand at 5:30 only to find it empty, so we decided to walk. It took us twenty minutes and we had to haul one carry-on case, one backpack and another bag.
We arrived on time but the bus didn’t. It arrived at about 6:20 but that’s Mexico. Nobody complained, we stood and chatted while we waited.
The trip took eight hours and we had frequent stops on the way. Also, we were given snacks on the bus. We arrived at three-thirty and after checking in went on a short city tour. While on the tour we were told that there was a special event at the cathedral at 8:40 pm. That of course bought a laugh as nothing here is that precise.
We met up with Mike and Pat at 7 pm and went for a really nice dinner. Then, we walked to the cathedral to watch the show. They do this event every Saturday but there was a special group in town so they did it today instead. Our tour guide Karen said that we were the special group. Yeah right!
The elevation in Morelia is 1900 meters about 6300 feet. It makes it a bit harder to breathe but not too bad. The temperature is a lot cooler and we had to bring heavier coats and long pants.
The Monarch butterflies migrate from Canada and the Eastern States from October to March. About 100 million of them fly 2,000 miles to Mexico. It takes them about two months. They converge on an area 50 miles wide near Texas and proceed as a group the rest of the way. They go nowhere else in the world just Michoacán where they stay for about five months,
They fly at 10,000 feet and rely on the air currents to carry them to save energy. Over the Great Lakes, if bad weather hits they will land on boats and anything else that floats until they can take off again
They arrive in Mexico in late October and early November. The Mexican people believe that they are the souls of the dead and have a huge celebration culmination in Las Dias de Los Muertos (“The Day of the Dead”) November 1st.
This is the fourth generation in one year, because, on the way back they stop in Texas. They mate, the females lay about 400 eggs each and then die. The new generation then does the same thing further north and finally again in Canada. Where the whole process starts again. It takes nine months to make the trip back.
It’s amazing to think that this little creature that has a four-inch wingspan and weighs less than 1/5 of an ounce can achieve such a feat. They have never flown this route before but still, they know which way to go.
An experiment was done to see what would happen if butterflies were taken from Kansas and released in DC. For the first few days, they flew south toward the Gulf of Mexico, Then, they realized something was wrong and changed direction and headed southwest to join the rest of the group. No one knows how they do this.
The Monarchs eventual destination in Mexico wasn’t discovered until 1975, The sanctuaries are protected but there is a lot of illegal logging in the area and a great threat to the monarchs as well as the local guides.