Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly
NAJACO’s Lupita Butterfly Platter Doll celebrates the Monarch Butterfly that hibernates in the forests of the state of Michoacan. Recent news highlights the struggle of the natural world to stay alive, the Monarch Butterfly has been placed on the Endangered Species List.
Monarch butterflies embark on a marvelous migratory phenomenon. They travel between 1,200 and 2,800 miles or more from the northeast United States, and southeast Canada to the mountain forests in central Mexico, where they find the right climate conditions to hibernate from the beginning of November to mid-March. The monarch butterfly is known by scientists as Danaus plexippus, which in Greek literally means "sleepy transformation." The name evokes the species' ability to hibernate and change. Adult monarch butterflies possess two pairs of brilliant orange-red wings, featuring black veins and white spots along the edges. Males, who possess distinguishing black dots along the veins of their wings, are slightly bigger than females. Each adult butterfly lives only about four to five weeks.
Migratory monarch butterflies have been overwintering in the forests of Michoacan, Mexico for generations. Scientifically discovered in the late 1970’s, monarchs were historically—and in some cases still today— considered by local people to be the souls of their ancestors. The monarch’s arrival in villages close to the reserve coincides with the Day of the Dead in Mexico, November 1st and 2nd. The bright orange hue of the monarchs is almost identical to the color of the cempazuchitl flower, which blooms around the same time in the region. The flower is considered in Mexico to be the “flower of the dead” and is used to adorn graves to pay respect and celebrate the life of loved ones. Is this all a coincidence? I don’t know, but it certainly takes on a deeper meaning as the migratory monarch faces a more perilous future.
During the last three decades, the eastern migratory monarch butterfly population has decreased by more than 80%, according to WWF monitoring reports. One of main drivers in the decline of the migratory monarch’s population is the use of herbicides in the U.S., resulting in a loss of milkweeds, essential for monarchs reproduction. Additionally, climate variations in North American during the summers of 2004 to 2018, affected both the presence of milkweed and the butterflies’ life cycle. Forest degradation in the butterfly’s Mexican reserve was once a concern but efforts toward sustainability and collaborations with local communities have kept this threat at bay.