HYDE PARK — Seeing a billion monarch butterflies at once is a good way to break the winter blues, and the Museum of Science and Industry is offering up the experience with the film “Flight of the Butterflies.”
The museum at 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive will show screenings of the documentary following the North American butterfly species during its long journey from its winter mating haven in Mexico to Canada — a trip that is started by a parent in the movie and completed by a great grandchild.
“Every time I see it, it’s like walking back into that clearing,” said Catalina Aguado, who was a member of the team that discovered the winter haven for billions of Monarch butterflies in Mexico in 1975.
After months on the back of a motorcycle crisscrossing Mexican mountain ranges, Aguado was one of the first humans ever to see firsthand the spot where more than a billion monarch butterflies gather at once.
“It was a feeling I don’t think I will ever have again — it was awe,” Aguado said.
She said her exposed skin was quickly covered with the orange and black flapping wings of the butterflies, which are attracted to warmth.
The film follows monarchs as they travel from Mexico to Texas to mate and die, and then north to the Midwest to mate and die again and finally to Canada to mate again, producing a generation that will travel back to Mexico to start the cycle over again.
University of Kansas Professor Orley “Chip” Taylor of Monarch Watch encouraged Chicago residents to see the film and plant the butterfly’s food supply if moved by the movie.
“The caterpillars can only feed on milkweed,” Taylor said, adding that broad use of herbicides has greatly reduced food supplies for monarchs in the Midwest.
He said those who are moved by the desire to preserve the dwindling populations of monarchs should plant milkweed, a weed with beautiful flowers that butterflies, bees and other pollinators are particularly attracted to.
“It’s not just about butterflies, it’s about everything that shares that habitat,” Taylor said.
“Flight of the Butterflies” will show at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. every day at the museum.
The film requires an extra ticket beyond the general admission ticket for the museum.