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Monarch Butterfly Migration in Michoacan: Celebrating Spirits and Nature’s Wonders

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Michoacan, Mexico

For centuries, people in the Michoacan state of Mexico have celebrated the arrival of millions of vibrant monarch butterflies every October. Local lore states that the beautiful orange fluttering creatures are the spirits of deceased loved ones who arrive just in time to participate in Mexico‘s jubilant Day of the Dead celebrations.

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve—which is located in Michoacan and Estado de Mexico—is a protected expanse of forest that serves as the end point for a 2,8000-mile monarch butterfly migration. From October-March, a sizable stretch of forest in Michoacan and Estado de Mexico is covered in an undulating carpet of pumpkin-colored butterflies that constantly move from tree to tree.

Although some of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is not accessible to the public, there are several places where visitors can watch the annual monarch migration. The El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacan–which is located 2 hours from Mexico City—is one of Mexico’s most popular monarch butterfly sanctuaries. Reaching a prime monarch viewing spot at El Rosario does require a moderately strenuous hike, but the sight of a blizzard of butterflies is certainly worth the trek.

El Rosario is home to towering oyamel fir trees which become chandelier-shaped colonies of monarch butterflies from late fall to early spring. Monarch butterflies even assemble on the ground to drink from streams. Visitors are greeted by a mesmerizing swirl of butterflies that extends from the ground to the sky.

Scientists have discovered that monarch butterflies thrive in quiet environments. The staff at the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary requests that visitors remain as quiet as possible while observing the butterflies to avoid disrupting their delicate habitat.

There are few earthly sights quite as spellbinding as watching a cloud of monarch butterflies gently flutter from the ground, to the treetops, to the sky.

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