Why is This Place So Special for Monarchs?


Did you notice?

The monarchs spend the winter in high, mountain forests. They select mountains that:

  • are at least 10,000 feet high and
  • have a healthy fir forest and
  • usually have southwest-facing slopes.

Yet monarchs do not choose all mountains that fit this description!

They only form their colonies in certain places. Scientists still have a lot to learn about monarch winter habitat. They know monarchs choose sites that have a special "microclimate." (A "microclimate" is the climate of a small, local area.)

For example, the temperature of the site must strike a perfect balance. It must be warm enough to keep the butterflies from freezing, but not too warm or the butterflies would burn their energy too quickly.

The mountains must also have enough space for the monarchs to move as their needs change during the winter season. They need the right amount of moisture, protection from the wind, sunlight, shade and other variables.

The fact that the monarchs can survive for five winter months in Mexico is as amazing as is their migration. Learn more about the monarchs winter habitat:


(Back to: "The Location of the Monarch Overwintering Sites in Mexico: Why is This Place So Special for Monarchs?")

Monarchs have...

Mountains at least 10,000 feet high

A healthy fir forest.
(Notice corn fields encroaching at the base of the mountain.)

Trees to shelter them

The monarch's fir forest is very rare in Mexico.
Take a look!