Cyclist completes 10,201-mile migration with monarch butterflies

Published 2:16 pm Friday, December 15, 2017

Every fall, the monarch butterflies arrive to the mountains of central Mexico, completing a round-trip, multi-generational, multi-national migration. This year the monarchs were accompanied by cyclist Sara Dykman, the Butterbiker.

“I couldn’t fly like a butterfly, but I could bike like a butterbiker,” she said. On Dec. 9th, Dykman, 32, finished her round trip bicycle migration at the monarch sanctuaries, having pedaled 10,201 miles in nine and a half months.

Dykman visited Albert Lea in May. While here, she received donated milkweed seeds from vice president of Albert Lea Seed House Tom Erhardt, which she planted along the route from central Mexico to Canada and back.

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“Albert Lea is a home of the monarch,” Dykman said when she visited in May. “The monarch doesn’t live here all of the year, but it lives here for some of the year. It’s time we do something so we don’t erase them from the planet.”

The entire trip was made on a beat-up bicycle weighed down with everything from camping to video equipment.

“My bike weighed way too much,” Dykman said, “but I went slow and steady.” Which, to Dykman, meant going about 60 miles per day, with rest stops to give presentations at schools and nature centers. At night she either camped or stayed with all sorts of different people.

“From Mexico to Canada, people were so willing to invite me into their house and let me experience a generosity found along the entire migration,” Dykman said.

According to a press release, Dykman said she considers her journey a success.

“My goal was to have an adventure that shined a spotlight on the migration and taught people what they could do to help,” she said.

To do this, Dykman visited more than 50 schools, sharing her monarch conservation message and showing over 9,000 students what a real-life scientist, conservationist and adventurer looks like.

“I wanted kids to see that I am just a regular person following my dreams, ignoring the doubters and being a voice for the monarch,” she said. “I wanted to tell the monarchs’ story and invite students to be part of the team protecting the monarchs.”

In central Mexico, this team is working to protect the Oyamel fir forest where millions of monarchs overwinter in dense colonies, the press release said.

In northern Mexico, the United States and southern Canada the team is encouraging people to grow milkweed and nectar plants, in an effort to combat the habitat loss which threatens the monarch population.

“Milkweed is the only food source for the monarch caterpillars,” Dykman explained, “no milkweed equals no monarchs.”

Dykman hopes that every homeowner and every school can plant a butterfly garden and learn to share the planet with nature.

“By planting milkweed and native nectar plants in your yard, you can return some habitat back to the monarchs, and be part of the solutions,” Dykman said. “If you grow it, they will come.”

From Mexico, through the Midwest, into Canada and back, Dykman said she was inspired by the many examples of monarch gardens.

Thanks to passionate homeowners, as well of public land and roadside managers, government officials, and schools, Dykman passed many butterfly gardens, roadside habitats, and wild land reserves.

In all, she saw over 700 monarch adults and 500 monarch eggs and caterpillars as she cycled.

“I didn’t see a monarch every day, but every day I saw people that could help the monarch,”  Dykman said. “Every garden counts.”

Many of the people Dykman saw along the way didn’t just help the migrating monarchs, but they also helped her; inviting her to rest, shower, eat, and learn.

“For me, the biggest lesson I learned was that there is this passionate network of people fighting for the monarch,” Dykman reflected. “All our efforts add up to something big. You don’t have to quit your job and bike thousands of miles to help the monarchs. You can plant milkweed, plant native nectar plants, and be a voice for the monarch. That’s what my trip was all about.”