Monarch Butterflies, a different kind of “snowbird”.

(Deutsche Version auf Anfrage 🙂

February 2015

Years ago I read a National Geographic article about the incredible migration of the Monarch Butterfly. They leave their range in Canada and USA in the fall and fly all the way to the mountains east of Mexico City for the winter. There they congregate in a few places high up in the mountains and wait until it gets warmer, as soon as the sun comes out they fly around and look for potential mates. Most males die after they mate and the rest of the butterflies leave the mountain tops in mid March and head north again.

People ask us sometimes if we have a trip plan. No, we don’t. We plan ahead for a week at the most. But one thing we had planned was a trip to the mountains where the Monarchs spend the winter. There are four different areas open to the public. You are not allowed to go up to those mountains without a guide. You can choose to ride a horse or hike. We went to Cerro Pelon and the little pueblo called Macheros ( 400 inhabitants and 100 horses). The Butterfly B&B there rents rooms and can arrange for the guides and horses, there is also a “Parador Touristico” that has camping spots, toilets and showers and rooms for rent. The tours start from there.

I decided to ride a horse (Negro), the air is thin up there, the mountain is steep and most of all, I love to be on a horse.


Günter wanted to walk. It took us 1 1-2 hours up a steep trail through a beautiful forest, pine trees , firs, madronas and even cedars got larger as we moved higher. It is home for many birds, a bird watchers paradise, different hummingbirds buzzed by, vermillion flycatchers were a common sight and even troncons live here. But most of all, as we came up to the top of the mountain, we saw the butterflies.

First one or two, so more and more and by the time we got off our horses (there were eight of us) we were engulfed in butterflies. It was amazing and quite a sight. I cannot put the right words to it, one has to be there. There were clusters of them hanging on branches, a carpet of them on the ground looking for moisture and when the sun came out behind a cloud they exploded into an airborne mass of orange snowflakes. You can hear them, there are so many wings flitting, it sound like rain.


Mating Monarchs



Günter and Joel in the midst of it.


Looking for moisture on the ground.



They cluster up when it gets cold.



We spent a few hours just sitting in the forest and watching them, then it was time for ride back down.

20150219_152735 I was glad to get off the horse once we were back in town. My legs were jelly from the steep downhill ride. Günter was fine, no jelly there. We spent two more days in Macheros, went hiking and for a nice bike ride, there are many little farming settlements and the possibilities are endless.

The People in Macheros grow corn and increasingly avocados to get by, still plow their fields with oxen or horses and dry the corn cobs on the roof. Guiding tourists to the Butterfly reserve and being able to rent their horses is an important income for these farmers. So by hiring them you help out the local evonomy.





We took a back road to Valle de Bravo and the countryside reminded us of northern Italy. Valle de Bravo is nice but was very crowded when we got there. A weekend destination for well to do Mexicans from the capitol city. So after a quick stroll through town and some shopping at the market we drove on to Teoticuan and got there just before dark because we drove in circles for a while. It is hard to drive close to Mexico City without getting sucked in, one wrong turn and you are on the road to hell.


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1 Response to Monarch Butterflies, a different kind of “snowbird”.

  1. Franz Becherer says:

    Dees ischt a gônz intressanta Bricht gweache und dië schiine Bildle. Ma kinnt
    grad niedeg weare! Machets güët!


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