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Imax Film “Flight of the Butterflies” in 3D sheds light on the declining monarch butterfly population in the Americas

Last week the director and assistant director of the Havasi Wilderness Foundation attended a special event at the California Science Center: the screening of the new IMAX film “Flight of the Butterflies” in 3D.  They met the Executive Producer, Jonathan Barker, at a reception. This 3D film weaves together two stories. The remarkable main story is about the late scientist Fred Urquhart who spent his lifetime tagging Monarch butterflies and learning about their flight paths.

The film’s second thread takes you through the evolution of a monarch; from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult butterfly.  This documentary film is educational and engrossing.  Some scenes may even have you emotionally welling up in tears. One of the things you will learn is that Monarch butterflies are diminishing in numbers due to the lack of availability of milkweed, the plant on which they lay their eggs. The public is being encouraged to plant milkweed seeds so Monarch butterflies will continue to have future generations.

Monarch caterpillars and butterflies are poisonous if consumed.  Other animals know to avoid eating them due to their bright red, yellow, and black “warning colors.”  The caterpillars ingest toxins from the milkweed plant, which they are immune to, but most other animals are not.   These toxins remain in their bodies even after they undergo metamorphosis and become butterflies.

Milkweeds belong to the family Asclepiadaeae, derived from Askepios, the Greek god of medicine and healing. There are milkweed bushes and milkweed trees. Milkweeds have a unique pollination mechanism in which the plant relies on Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and Hymenoptera (bees, ants, and wasps) for pollination.

Monarchs migrate from Canada to Mexico and back, with each migration spanning several generations of butterflies.  The monarchs arrive in Mexico each fall by the first of November.  Their arrival coincides with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a holiday focusing on remembering family and friends who have passed away.  The monarchs are considered souls of the dead who return to Earth for their annual visit.

The “Flight of the Butterflies 3D” film has won 7 awards. The film begins on September 27 at the IMAX theatre located at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. For dates and times, click here.

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