Ecology: Monarch mysteries revealed in new documentary

Photo / Getty
Photo / Getty

Flight of the Butterflies 3D, a new documentary from British director Mike Slee, captures the incredible 2,000 mile journey that monarch butterflies make from North America to Mexico.

Speaking to the Guardian, Slee says the scales on their wings and "punk" hairstyles are amazing to see. The documentary also offers the first 3D glimpse inside a chrysalis. "You watch a caterpillar morph into a butterfly, one of nature's most extraordinary moments. I still can't believe it when I watch it ... It's rather like when they first brought out ultrasound and you could see a baby in the womb."

The film also sheds light on the lifecycle of the monarch. Monarchs create several 'generations' each year, with the first three on living for a matter of weeks. The fourth, 'super generation' of monarchs can live for six months and journey between Mexico and America. "That's their ace", says Slee. "They fly to Mexico, where there's this perfect forest and perfect climate. They go into a dormant state and hang in the trees until the sun shines on them again, and they come back to life.

That generation will fly back north to lay eggs ... and the story begins again."

WIth the continued eradication of milkweed, the only food source for the monarch caterpillar, it is thought that film could also aid monarch conservation. SK Films, who distributes the film, is encouraging audiences to grow milkweed and bring butterflies to their own gardens by selling seeds in cinemas.

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