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Scientists Document Illegal Logging in Monarch Butterfly Reserve by Using Drones and Satellite Photos

By Richard Levine

Today I wrote a guest article for the Oxford University Press Blog.

Richard Levine

The monarch butterfly is famous for its migratory route, which can be as long as 2,500 miles. Unfortunately, the end of its destination is a mountainous part of Mexico that is home to oaks, pines and Oyamel firs, which are valued for their timber. Even though the area is protected, illegal logging operations have been known to occur there.

In April 2015, after Mexican environmentalists reported that such operations were taking place, a group of monarch researchers tried to enter the area to see what was going on, but they were denied permission. So instead they used technology — drones and satellite photos — to document the destruction.

Their story is the subject of an article in American Entomologist.

– Click here to read the Oxford University Press blog post.

– Click here to read “Illegal Logging of 10 Hectares of Forest in the Sierra Chincua Monarch Butterfly Overwintering Area in Mexico,” the American Entomologist article.

Richard Levine is Communications Program Manager at the Entomological Society of America and editor of the Entomology Today Blog.


  1. Thanks and please do what you can to get publicity for this discovery. The Mexican gov’t needs to be pressured. Maybe greenpeace could do something besides destroy g.e. test p[lots for a change.

  2. Not a big deal because: 1) The actual butterfly cluster trees were not logged, hence although the logging was illegal, it did not actually destroy butterfly cluster tree habitat: 2) The cluster area in question (Arroyo Hondo) is not occupied by the butterflies every year; but only once every 3-5 years on average. 3) The logged area was not virgin forest – the region has been selectively logged for centuries. 4) The logged trees will not need to be manually replanted because these forests are well known to regenerate on their own in only 40-50 years.

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