The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies

Feb 22, 2024 | Nature, Videos

The NOVA documentary, “Monarch Butterfly Migration,” provides a captivating glimpse into one of nature’s most remarkable phenomena: the epic, annual migration of monarch butterflies across North America.

Each summer, millions of monarchs fill the sky with their orange-and-black wings as they travel an astonishing 2,000 miles from their northern breeding grounds to winter in the high-altitude forests of central Mexico. How do these delicate creatures find their way to their remote destination?

At the start of their journey, monarch caterpillars feed upon milkweed plants in southern Canada before transforming into silky chrysalids for roughly 10 days. From there, adult butterflies take off on a two-month odyssey that takes them over fields and forests, plains and deserts, cities and open water – all the way to Mexico.

To capture such a miraculous migration on film requires some extraordinary production techniques. NOVA’s filmmakers used helicopters, ultralights, and hot air balloons to follow monarchs on the wing throughout this incredible voyage.

As featured in the documentary, some of the world’s leading butterfly researchers shed light on this awe-inspiring phenomenon. Lincoln Brower of Sweet Briar College, independent biologist Bill Calvert, and Orley “Chip” Taylor of University of Kansas share facts about how these amazing creatures navigate across thousands of miles despite having never made such a pilgrimage before.

From Taylor’s perspective: “You’ve got a butterfly that’s originating in Toronto or Detroit or St Paul or maybe even Winnipeg—somehow it finds its way to Mexico! Could you do that?”

The NOVA documentary Monarch Butterfly Migration provides an unprecedented insight into this spectacular natural event that is sure to fascinate viewers of all ages. Through stunning aerial footage and interviews with experts in the field, audiences can learn more about the secrets behind this remarkable ancestor migration—as well as appreciate its sheer beauty along the way!

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David B