“It is believed that the butterflies carry the souls of our ancestors back to the earth because they arrive in Mexico at the same time every year and it’s around Day of the Dead,” said Erica Hernandez, program director at the Mexican Cultural Center, which partnered with the Butterfly Pavilion to release the monarchs.
“The monarchs’ arrival in Mexico is a breathtaking phenomenon that also carries a strong cultural significance,” she said.
The 400 monarchs were released into “Wings of the Tropics,” a climate-controlled tropical room in the Butterfly Pavilion. The butterflies were sustainably farmed from Michigan and will remain in the Butterfly Pavilion for the remainder of their lives, about two to six weeks.
Shiran Hershcovich, lepidopterist at the Buttery Pavilion, opened a box filled with the butterflies as adults captured videos on their phones and children stuck out their hands, welcoming the monarchs to Colorado. Many monarchs flew out of the box and landed on leaves, tree branches and the room’s ceiling. Others clung to clothing, hands and arms, and some stayed in the box until Hershcovich led them out with a guiding hand.
Dozens of children stood in awe as monarchs fluttered around the room. Many tried to catch the quick creatures, while others gazed from afar.
“Monarchs are some of the most impressive vertebrates and they’re immediately captivating,” Hershcovich said. “These animals not only support us but also have inspired centuries of tradition, art, literature and more.”
Two children hold a recently-released monarch butterfly in hand at the Butterfly Pavilion. Photo: Alison Berg/Rocky Mountain PBS
Typically, butterflies migrating from Colorado to Mexico will land in spots their ancestors once called home, which Hernandez said resonates with many who celebrate Día De Los Muertos, as the holiday inspires people to honor their ancestors.
“Conserving the monarch butterflies is important for the preservation of their meaningful cultural ties in Mexico,” Hernandez said.
Hershcovich said butterflies are essential to preserving the life humans enjoy on the planet because of their integral role in pollination, as well as their inspiration for clothing, art and literature.
“We function on the backs of invertebrates,” Hershcovich said. “Their survival is intrinsically linked to our survival.”
Renee Husovich, a teacher from Greeley, said she brings her class to the Butterfly Pavilion each year because it provides her students a chance to see physical creatures they’ve read about for months.
“They’re hearing about metamorphosis and hibernation of these creatures,” Husovich said. “But to bring the students here and see the creatures flying around a beautiful habitat, I think has impressed the knowledge into their minds.”
Alison Berg is a reporter at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julio Sandoval is senior photojournalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at email@example.com.