Monday, June 26th 2023

Monarch Butterflies in Mexico

Written by

Rafael Bracho

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Monarch Butterflies in Mexico


The arrival of the Monarch butterflies is one of the most spectacular occurrences in Mexico—and they mark the end of an incredible journey across the entire North American continent.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about monarch butterfly season in Mexico, including when it is, how to see them, and the amazing trek they take to get to this wonderful country.

What Are Monarch Butterflies?

Monarch butterflies are a type of milkweed butterfly in the family Nymphalidae. They are known by many names, including milkweed butterflies, black-veined brown butterflies, wanderers, and common tiger butterflies.

Monarch butterflies have a familiar black and orange striped pattern with white spots along their outer rings. They are mostly characterized by their formidable size—having a wingspan of 3.5 – 4.5 inches.

They are most famous for their incredible migration—traveling from Canada in the summer to Florida and Mexico in the winter. This is a multi-generational migration, meaning that it takes several generations to complete the journey across the continent.

The Monarch Butterfly Migration to Mexico

Monarch butterflies travel in colonies of 20 million, but their flight is fraught with peril, from predators to environmental destruction, it’s a miracle of nature that they are able to complete this migration successfully.

The first migration is completed by one generation. These butterflies are capable of traveling 80 – 120 nautical miles a day, taking advantage of ascending warm-air currents. They ride these warm air currents, and only flap their wings when they have to change their flight path or when these currents diminish.

The trip home is the multi-generational journey. It takes three generations to return to their homes in the United States and Canada.

When Is Monarch Butterfly Season in Mexico?

Monarch butterflies are found in Mexico from the months of November to March, then they return north when Mexico begins to get hot in the Spring (which are the hottest months in Central Mexico before tropical thunderstorms cool the country down in the summer). The peak time to view Monarch butterflies in Mexico is mid-January to early March.

Monarch Butterflies Overwinter in Mexico

In early November, the first butterflies can be seen in Mexico and by the end of March, the butterflies are all gone. When they arrive in Mexico, they settle in the Oyamel fir trees found throughout Central Mexico. Some of these fir trees can even be found in the west of Mexico City.

By the heat of the day, the monarch butterflies leave the refuge of these trees, and venture out into the world. They are crucial pollinators. Then, as evening falls on Central Mexico, they return to their insulated tree trunks.

Where Can I See the Monarch Butterflies in Mexico?

THe Mexican government has set up sanctuaries dedicated to protecting the Monarch butterfly as a national symbol of perseverance. They have been established within a biosphere reserve to ensure that the important habitats required by the Monarch butterflies are not destroyed by deforestation or other industrial activities.

You can view Monarch butterflies at these sanctuaries throughout Central Mexico, however the Mexican state of Michoacan is recognized as their most popular destination in Mexico. So much so that the football team of Morelia is called “Monarcas”.

Many of these sanctuaries have been established in some of the most idyllic vistas found in the country. Trek along paths hidden in the forest as butterflies flutter about, before entering a clearing and seeing the rich landscape of Mexico. It’s breathtaking.

UPDATE - June, 21, 2023:

Now, the latest scientific evidence may suggest that the black and white spots on the monarch butterfly might act kind of like the stripes on a zebra. They could be for channeling air currents which would help the butterfly fly farther distances. They came to this conclusion through an analysis of the monarch butterflies that did survive the journey, and they noticed they had more white spots.

*To learn more about this new theory, click here.


Monarch butterflies are seen as a cultural identity in Mexico, not only as symbols of beauty, but also of their fantastic migration. They are precious and something that needs to be protected. One of the best ways to help protect these marvelous butterflies is to visit their sanctuaries—which helps to provide much needed funds and attention to the Monarch butterfly.

*For more information, click here to watch a stunning 3-minute PBS video.

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