Monarchs Pour in on Cerro Pelon

This week the bulk of my report from Cerro Pelon comes to you in the form of a video (see above). I shot these images on November 11, 2018, in the Carditos section of Cerro Pelon. Although the sanctuary does not officially open until next Saturday, Joel and I went up to check in with the Butterflies & Their People Arborists and deliver their paychecks.

My video references some Cerro Pelon geography. Last season the monarchs roosted above El Llano de Tres Gobernadores. But this year it’s a Carditos season again. The monarchs alternate between these two locations every other season — so depending on when you visit, you will be seeing an entirely different side of the mountain and taking a very different trail up.

All three of the CEPANAF rangers who work on Cerro Pelon are from Macheros. Three out of four of the Butterflies & Their People arborists are from communities on the Michoacan side of the sanctuary. Even though Michoacan is closer to the monarch colonies, tourist entries for Cerro Pelon all start from the State of Mexico side of the sanctuary.


Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist Trecia Neal visited Cerro Pelon before the monarchs arrived. The mountain is still mossy from the long rainy season.

Why the monarchs alternate sides of the sanctuary is a mystery. There is much that remains unknown and unstudied about monarch behavior in Mexico. Another example of information we’re lacking is: how long does it take the monarchs to form a colony after they arrive? As far as I know, no one has systematically tracked this information. But as of today I can tell you that this season, the answer is still “not yet.” The monarchs remain widely dispersed, all over the higher reaches of Cerro Pelon as well flying overhead all day long in the valley of Macheros.

Just while writing this, I glanced up to see more than a dozen dark flutterings pumping past my window. It’s a beautiful time of year for looking up.

Saludos desde Macheros,

Ellen Sharp

Co-owner JM Butterfly B&B

Director Butterflies & Their People, AC

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