Chasing butterflies: a 16,000 km cycling trip through 3 countries

The cycling journey by America biologist, Sara Dykman is coming through Sudbury, today to help spread a message about how to save the monarch butterflies. The 16,000-kilometre journey follows the migration of the species.

Biologist following butterfly migration to educate others about endangered monarch species

Sara Dykman is cycling the migratory route of the monarch butterflies to educate other along that journey on ways they can help save the endangered species. The biologist will stop in Sudbury, Ont., to speak with students at Algonquin Public School. (Supplied/beyondabook.org)

The cycling tour that Sara Dykman is on has nothing to do with bicycles, except she happens to be riding one.

The American biologist is following the migration route of monarch butterflies. That journey is 16,000 kilometres in length and has taken her through three countries.

She is in Sudbury today.

The self-professed animal lover started in March in Mexico when the butterflies were beginning their journey north into the United States and Canada.

She says she will follow them until they return back to Mexico, likely arriving there in November.

Although she says she wants to help save the endangered species, Dykman says her bicycle tour, called ButterBike, has a bigger purpose.

Milkweed for monarchs

"My goal is not to see a monarch everyday, though I have been consistently seeing monarchs everyday for the last few months," says Dykman.

"My goal more is to see people everyday that are on the route. Every single person I see on my route can be part of the migration and can help by planting milkweed."

Milkweed is the only food source of the monarch caterpillar. It also provides a habitat for the butterflies.

According to Dykman, the population of monarch butterflies has declined by 90 per cent over the last 20 years, and much of that is due to habitat loss.

'Amazing' to leave butterfly sanctuary in Mexico

She says one of her favourite moments on the adventure happened at the very beginning.

"In Mexico, when [the monarch butterflies] are all congregated together, there's literally millions and millions just circling and flying and you can hear their wings. On my first day, I biked from the sanctuaries downhill, and they were all streaming out of the mountains. So there was just thousands around me and it was amazing," says Dykman.

"Every time I see a monarch I'm just kind of blown away. Not only can they do that navigation, but they can cross roads and they can find milkweed in the middle of a city."

Biologist Sara Dykman is cycling 16,000 kilometres across 3 countries to follow the migration route of monarch butterflies. She is in Sudbury, Ont., to educate others on how they can help save the species. (Supplied/beyondabook.org)

Multi-generational migration

The migration route of the monarch is special because it is multi-generational, says Dykman.

"The monarch that you all are seeing here in Ontario didn't come from Mexico — it was probably more like their great grandparents who were living in Mexico," she says.

"And it will probably be their kids or grandkids that fly back to Mexico."

You can follow Dykman along her ButterBike tour at beyondabook.org. 

She will be at Algonquin Road Public School this morning to speak about her adventure and how students can help protect the environment.

Dykman says she wants kids to realize that they can play a part in protecting the earth.

"It'll be our chance to keep this going so that the future has a chance to enjoy [monarch butterlfies] as well."