The Monarch Butterfly in Mexico

Whenever we speak of the migration of these lepidopters, most of us think of sanctuaries located in the forests of Michoacan. However, it is necessary to know that besides Michoacan, there are other places in Mexico where you can admire the Monarch Butterfly, one of them being the state of Mexico. As a matter of fact, three of the Monarch Butterfly habitats are located in the state of Mexico.

The San Felipe Plateau (located on the limit with the state of Michoacan) is home of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. The total area of the site is 56.000 acres. This site has been recognized by the UNESCO as World Heritage Site since 2008. This is where the Butterfly forests are divided, forming several colonies. The two most visited colonies (there are others where access is not allowed) are El Capulin and La Mesa (in San José del Rincón). These forests are usually crowded with Butterflies starting early November, since a huge amount arrives during those days.

To visit the Capulin Sanctuary (thirty minutes away from Toluca) one must take the road to Valle de Bravo and take the exit to Ejido del Capulin, in the community of San Mateo Almomoloa. This place has a tourist stop that offers guide services, restaurants, horseback riding and local handcrafts made by the descendants of Mazahua and Otomi Indians. Mountain biking has recently been introduced, although this practice is recommended only in off-season months (when there are no Butterflies) for your comfort.

Another sanctuary (La Mesa) is located in the town of the same name and you can get there by taking the Villa Victoria exit on the Toluca-Zitácuaro road, and then heading to Palizada. Here you will also find restaurants and some cabins; in addition the establishment of hatcheries for trout- fishing has been recently encouraged. It is recommended to book your stay and confirm your reservation before you arrive.

The WWF (World Wildlife Fund) involvement has taught many of the residents and visitors how to better care for these forests that have been beset by problems such as deforestation, fires and disorganized and irresponsible tourism. So if you visit these places, do so with respect and take precautions to help preserve the Butterfly sanctuaries.

About the Butterflies:

One of the reasons why the Monarch Butterfly is so admired (aside from its beauty) is that despite being seemingly fragile creatures, they hide great strength inside them, which allows them to achieve their winter migration every year from forests in the US and Canada. The distance they travel ranges between 4.000 and 5.000 kilometers. The Butterflies’ lifespan is short (3 to 6 weeks, increasing to a maximum of 9 months in autumn); the round trip sometimes reaches up to three different generations. It should be noted that although there are 2 other routes for their migration path, the route that arrives to these forests is apparently preferred by the Monarch Butterflies, as a large number of them arrive there. If you have a chance to visit these sanctuaries, be sure to do so ... it’s a unique experience worth seeing!

Article produced by the Editorial Team of "Explorando Mexico".
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Photo: CNN México