From the beginnings of research on the Monarch butterfly, public participation has been of great importance. The Canadian researchers Fred and Nora Urquhart, discoverers of the Monarch butterfly hibernation sites, began the recruitment of volunteers to label and report the butterflies. The "El Correo Real" initiative, headed by the biologist Rocío Treviño of Profauna A.C., in Saltillo, Coahuila, continued compiling information about their migration. In the United States, the Journey North initiative has also collected thousands of data through harnessing public science.
Through NaturaLista, the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO, by its Spanish acronym), together with the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP, by its Spanish acronym), recently launched the initiative "In search of the Monarch". This uses public science to obtain information about the migratory route of the butterfly.
Upload your photos to NaturaLista
In NaturaLista, you can contribute to two projects about the Monarch butterfly:
- Monarch butterfly project. This project records all observations of the Monarch butterfly in Mexico.
- Monarch butterfly Biosphere Reserve. This project records all observations of the plant and animal species of the Monarch butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR).
You can also learn much more about the Monarch butterfly on the species website.
- If you see monarch butterflies on the highways, reduce your speed to allow the natural flow of migration.
- If you live in any of the Mexican States that form part of the migratory route (Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, Guanajuato, Estado de México, Michoacán), follow these recommendations:
- Care for and keep clean bodies of fresh water (rivers, streams, lakes, dams, etc.).
- Reduce the use of agrochemicals, insecticides and herbicides in fields of crops. Support organic agriculture.
- Promote the reproduction of species of native plants with flowers and create gardens for pollinators.
You can develop a garden for pollinators by sowing plants that produce nectar to attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds, among other pollinators. Include the Monarch butterfly as an example in your lessons about:
Migrations. Migration is a marvelous phenomenon: the Monarch butterflies that travel to Mexico have never been here before yet they come to the same sites as their great great grandparents!
Metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is another marvelous phenomenon where the body of the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, as if by magic!
Pollination. If migration involves millions of butterflies, imagine the number of plants they pollinate.
Herbivory. By selecting plants that are low in toxic substances, herbivores increase the survival and reproduction of toxic plants. At the same time, toxic plants increase the survival and reproduction of those butterflies that are able to assimilate them. Monarch butterfly caterpillars integrate the toxic substances into their bodies and use them to create a defense against predators.
Mimicry. The Queen, Soldier and Viceroy butterflies look very much like the Monarch. This phenomenon is known as " Batesian mimicry”, in honor of the English naturalist Henry W. Bates (1825-1892). In this type of mimicry, non-toxic species are protected from predators by assuming the appearance of toxic species.
Sexual differences. Sexual dimorphism exists in some species, i.e., males and females are different. These differences can be in form, function or behavior. Monarch butterfly males have two small black areas on the posterior wings and their venation is thinner than that of the females.
You can use the songs and videos about the butterfly in the section To learn more.
The decline in populations of Monarch butterfly is the result of environmental degradation in many places in Canada, the United States and Mexico. We all contribute to this deterioration by being irresponsible consumers. We should think about our waste of water and how we pollute the water, air and soil by buying products that severely affect the environment.