Right now, the Monarch Butterflies are migrating right through the Rio Grande Valley - and so were the Monarch Ultra Runners. On Sunday, October 20, the runners made an overnight stop in Pharr before crossing the Mexican border the next morning to follow the path of the Monarch as they fly from Ontario, Canada to their winter home deep in Mexico. The migration route used by these colorful creatures covers 2,671 miles.
Three locals joined the Ultra Runners on their last leg into Pharr - Harlingen cardiologist Dr. Charles Mild; Jose Uribe, from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; and Angel Guzman, a high school science teacher and Texas Master Naturalist.
These runners hope to draw awareness to the declining number of Monarchs and to encourage the planting of native plants that will attract and help sustain the butterflies on their long flight. Mayors from cities across the United States have joined together in their pledge to support habitats to help save the iconic Monarch from further decline. Harlingen's Mayor Chris Boswell became the most recent mayor to sign the pledge when he became the 500th signer. McAllen, however, is a Monarch Butterfly Champion City, an honor bestowed on only a few cities in Texas.
The Rio Grande Valley is blessed to have the National Butterfly Center located near Mission, and right next door to Bentsen Rio Grande State Park. The NABA - North American Butterfly Association - has designated Mission as the Butterfly Capitol of the United States.
Annually, the butterflies begin their migration from Canada to preserves located in the state of Michoacan, Mexico. For years no one knew where these beautiful orange, black and white spotted creatures migrated.
Can you imagine banding these delicate creatures hoping that someone, somewhere, would see the band and report their whereabouts? And that is exactly what happened.
There are two preserves high in the pine covered mountains near Angangueo, Mexico. Another preserve is in Valle de Bravo. Perhaps there are others still waiting to be discovered but those are the preserves that are recognized at this time.
Towards the end of October, South Padre Island annually recognizes the importance and beauty of the migratory Monarch with a Gala and a two-day celebration. Mission will celebrate the migration with their 24th annual Butterfly Festival on November 2 at the 100-acre National Butterfly Center, abundantly planted with native plants that butterflies thrive on.
But nothing can equal the actual experience of visiting the Winter home of the Monarchs located in the Sierra Madres of Mexico. From a distance, the pine trees covering the mountain side will look orange - not green - from the millions of Monarchs that are clustered on the branches. As the Monarchs begin to wake up, they will fall to the ground. Stunned, but not dead, they wait for the sun to warm their wings before they fly down the mountain side for water and food.
All the visitor must do is be patient, be still and be quiet. Listen and you might even hear the flutter of their wings. Better yet is when the Monarchs land on you, in your hair and on your clothing. It will be a magical moment!