Thom Smith | Naturewatch: Restoring the reign of monarch butterflies

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Here is an idea for monarch enthusiasts who love traveling:

I spoke with Maraleen Manos-Jones, who coordinates Monarch Butterfly Tours to Mexico, and she explained there remain some openings for her award-winning eco-educational tours, with the monarchs returning in greater numbers than the past few years.

The six-day experience costs $1,500 per person and includes food, lodging and transportation in Mexico. Part of the proceeds helps in the important reforestation effort replacing trees. (Sustainable reforestation is the only working solution to saving the monarchs and their habitats while helping the indigenous people in the area have a chance at economic self-sufficiency.)

Groups are limited to a maximum 12 people. (Air transport to Mexico and all liquor consumption is extra.) A deposit of 50 percent is required, which is refundable up to one week prior to the tour. And best of all, there are still openings for the upcoming tours, where you can expect to see an estimated 10,000 monarch butterflies roosting on each tree for the warmth of their companions during the cold nights, mostly in Oyamel Fir trees.

This type of tree grows only in the state of Michoacan, and the western part of the state of Mexico. The tree's Latin name is Abies religiosa; its branches were used in ancient pre-Colombian sacred worship.

With Jose Luis Alvarez, who speaks Spanish, French and English, as your guide, you will experience the heart and soul of Mexico. Be prepared for an extraordinary life experience, starting out in the renovated 350-year-old hacienda La Cruz. Jose Luis is also a forester, who has planted millions of trees in and around the monarch sanctuaries. Part of the proceeds from the tours helps in this effort. (Incidentally he has been touring and speaking this past month in the Northeast and Washington, D.C.)

Visit the website, spiritofbutterflies.com/butterfly-tours or contact Maraleen for information, mmjbutterfly@hvc.rr.com or call her at 845-657-8073 for more information. The trip is on our "bucket list."

To follow monarch butterfly preservation efforts in nearby Vernon, Vt. (south of Brattleboro, Vt., and north of Northfield, Mass.) go to Peggy Farabaugh's blog, vermontfurnitureblog.com/author/peggy-farabaugh/. Peggy is the lady who offered Naturewatch readers free milkweed seeds last spring for planting to help restore monarch butterflies. Visit Vermont Woods Studios, 538 Huckle Hill Road, Vernon, Vt. 05354, where you may have the opportunity to say hello to CEO Peggy Farabaugh. She is instrumental in bringing Jose Luis Alverez to visit our area.

In 1997, Jose Luis created a non-profit called "Forests For Monarchs" (www.forestsformonarchs.org), which came to be known as the La Cruz Habitat Protection Program (in the U.S.) and the Michoacan Restoration Fund (in Mexico). With donations from people all across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, "Forests for Monarchs" has been able to plant nearly 6 million trees.

Informal survey

The monarch butterfly photograph by Marjorie Safran in a recent Berkshire Eagle "Pick of the Pics," along with another photo by Cindy Flint-Ragusa and my seeing two monarchs in our yard last week got me wondering, have they made somewhat of a comeback? If you have seen a monarch this summer, let me know where, when, and how many, and also if it was at a milkweed.

The monarch butterfly and the Viceroy butterfly are nearly identical and often mistaken for each other. The primary visual difference in coloration is a black line bisecting each hind wing of the viceroy, a feature lacking in the monarch. To see this visual difference visit: www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/monarch/indexCurrent.html/

Another interesting sight to visit is journeynorth.org/monarch.

Thom Smith welcomes your questions and comments. Email him at Naturewatch@live.com or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.


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