Spy on Monarch Butterflies with the Help of a Hummingbird Drone

Usually the emphasis of nature documentaries is not on how the footage was filmed, but this case is different. The amount of time and effort scientists put into actual nature filming is tremendous, but some environments are harder to infiltrate than others. One such citadel of nature are the fir forests of Central Highland Mexico, where thousands of Monarch butterflies migrate every winter. Scientists do not fully understand how these butterflies successfully navigate to the same spot from all over the world every year, but the first step to learning more is to see the butterflies in their hidden home.

There are so many butterflies in the fir forests that flying a drone into the area poses a serious threat to the insects, and sending in human photographers disturbs them. This makes it extremely hard to know exactly what the butterflies are doing in their migratory fortress. To get a camera inside, scientists have devised a new type of remote spy, a drone shaped like a hummingbird. The design is ingenious and appears to be very successful at fooling the Monarchs; although, to be fair, butterflies are not very smart. Believing the drone to be a real hummingbird, the butterflies are undisturbed and go about their natural business, giving scientists, and the world, a unique insight into Monarch life. Scientists even took pains to shield the hummingbird’s tiny rotors with mesh coverings so they are safe enough that the Monarchs can, and do, land on them. The question remains, of course, what device was filming the hummingbird drone? A second hummingbird perhaps? Nevertheless, the sights captured by the little drone are breathtaking.



Former Editor in Chief of The City Voice, finally graduated City High Middle School as part of the Class of 2022.