The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies


Orange-and-black wings fill the sky as NOVA charts one of nature’s most remarkable phenomena: the epic migration of monarch butterflies across North America. To capture a butterfly’s point of view, NOVA’s filmmakers used a helicopter, ultralight, and hot-air balloon for aerial views along the transcontinental route. This wondrous annual migration, which scientists are just beginning to fathom, is an endangered phenomenon that could dwindle to insignificance if the giant firs that the butterflies cling to during the winter disappear.

Learn more & get involved:

Monarch Watch
Learn how to create “waystations” for monarch butterflies, read about the life cycle of the monarch, and more at this website from the University of Kansas.

Journey North: Monarch Butterfly Migration
Join others and help track the monarch population as the butterflies migrate across North America each year.

Monarch Butterfly Migration and Overwintering
Find out how to participate in citizen science and see information about the North American monarch population at this site from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Monarchs in the Classroom—University of Minnesota
This website, run by the University of Minnesota extension school, provides a variety of resources for teachers and parents.


Four Wings and a Prayer: Caught in the Mystery of the Monarch Butterfly
by Sue Halpern. Pantheon, 2001.

The Last Monarch Butterfly: Conserving the Monarch Butterfly in a Brave New World
by Phil Schappert. Firefly Books, 2004.

A World of Butterflies
text by Brian Cassie, photographs by Kjell Sandved. Bulfinch, 2004.

The Monarch Butterfly: Biology and Conservation
by Karen Oberhauser and Michelle Solensky. Cornell University, 2004.


“Molecular Basis of Monarch Butterfly Migration Discovered”
Science Daily, January 9, 2008.

“Fly Away Home”
by Donald McNeilThe New York Times, October 3, 2006.

“The Waning Reign of Monarchs: Man and Nature Believed to Be Conspirators In Devastation of Mexico’s Butterfly Population”
by Mary Jordan and Kevin SullivanThe Washington Post, February 23, 2005.

“The Wired Butterfly”
by Mark CaldwellDiscover, February 1, 1997.