Adventurers follow monarch butterfly migration on bikes

Adventurers follow monarch butterfly migration on bikes

Sara Dykman left Morelia, Mexico in March with a team of cyclists following the monarch butterfly migration, an impressive journey that takes four generations of butterflies nine months and 14,400 kilometres to complete.

The group is part of Beyond a Book, an adventure-based education project that involves people learning by exploring and then bringing their findings to classrooms along the way.

Butter Bike is the latest project that will include classroom presentations and field trips with students as the cyclists share their findings of the monarch migration. One of those stops along the way will be in Leamington and Point Pelee National Park, where the butterflies are a major tourist attraction.

"I want to share what I'm learning with kids and I want to get them excited about their own potential trips," said Dykman during a stop in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Point Pelee wasn't a scheduled stop for the Butter Bike tour, but Dykman met with Darlene Burgess, a Leamington woman who raises her own monarchs and who was down in Mexico at the beginning of the migration.

Burgess says she "gently" convinced Dykman to stop at the park to witness the butterflies, likely in mid-August. There has been a significant push to help restore the monarch population in the area, including two years ago when Leamington and Parks Canada teamed up to build a butterfly trail.

Burgess urges people to help in the conservation effort, considering it was the use of pesticides and the tearing up of milkweed that caused the problem. Milkweed is the only plant a monarch caterpillar will eat.

"The monarchs need our help," she said. "We are the ones who have caused their decline."

Recognizing the monarch population continues to decline, Dykman says Canada, the U.S. and Mexico need to work together to protect the butterflies.

"This is a North American butterfly, it lives in three countries. The only way we're going to save this butterfly is if the three countries work together," she said.

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