Armchair Explorer

Bicycling with Butterflies: a 10,000-mile Journey Following the Monarch Migration with Travel Author Sara Dykman

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Episode notes

Join travel author and naturalist Sara Dykman on a 10,000 mile journey following on the wings of one of the most remarkable migrations in the animal kingdom.

Every spring tens of millions of monarch butterflies travel from their winter hibernation grounds in the Transvolcanic Mountains of Mexico north across the United States and into Canada. It’s a journey of between 2,000 and 3,000 miles. For a creature that weighs half a gram, and measures about four inches, that’s a preposterous distance. The comparative length trip for a 150lb human being would be more than 300 million miles – or roughly 700 round trips to the moon.

But even more baffling is the fact that the butterfly that departs from Mexico will die before returning home. And so will its offspring. It will be left to the fourth generation, the great granddaughter of that original butterfly, to begin the journey anew next spring. How millions of monarchs find their way across a continent to the same specific 12 mountains every year, having never been there before, and with no guide, is still one of the great mysteries of the natural world.

But the journey of the monarchs is getting harder and harder every year. Agriculture and human domestication of the land is reducing their habitat and food sources along the way to barely enough to survive. In undertaking this epic bike ride Sara will also be raising awareness of their plight as she unravels the mystery of this incredible journey.

But this is also a story about us. Through her journey Sara discovered the wonder of the microsopic world all around us, an entire universe in the dirt and fluttering above our heads. Her adventure also reminds us to stop, slow down and notice these small wonders because the more we do so the more amazing our world becomes.

Buy the Book
Sara’s book is called bicycling with butterflies. It’s a fascinating read and well worth a look. You can also connect with her at or @beyondabook on facebook. To find out more about the monarch butterfly migration, why it’s under threat and what you can do to help head to  and

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