Where have all the monarchs gone? The Space for Life teams up with concerned scientists
MONTREAL, July 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ – The first monarch butterflies
generally arrive in Québec in mid-June. This year, experts and the many
people taking part in citizen science initiatives monitoring monarchs
have seen an estimated drop of 90% in the overall monarch population in
Eastern Canada. This is unheard of. Across the continent, scientists
and butterfly enthusiasts are worried, and the Montréal Insectarium
echoes their questions and concerns: could the migration of monarchs in
eastern North America one day disappear altogether?
A few difficult seasons
Each year, the monarchs spend the winter in Mexico, then in the spring
they gradually move northwards through the United States and eventually
into Québec. In 2012, their reproduction rates fell dramatically
throughout their journey, as they were confronted with extreme
temperatures, record drought, flowers empty of nectar and a scarcity of
their host plant milkweed. For the same reasons, their return to Mexico
in the fall was no easier. The result? During the winter of 2012-2013,
researchers found that the monarchs’ hibernation area covered just
1.19 hectare of forest–60% less than the previous year’s area, which
was already well below the average of 7 hectares. On top of that,
spring 2013 was marked by unusually cold temperatures and record
rainfall. The monarchs’ ability to reproduce as they headed back north
was therefore greatly diminished.
The exceptionally good conditions for butterflies, including the
monarch, last year in Québec were not sufficient to counter the
negative effects observed in populations elsewhere on the continent.
The monarch’s current situation is a striking example of the impact
climate change can have on biodiversity. Extreme phenomena associated
with climate change and the loss of natural habitat are increasingly
common. Butterflies are usually “champions” of adaptation, making
recent observations all the more troubling. Although populations could
potentially stabilize in the future, the teams at the Montréal Space
for Life and the Insectarium remain vigilant and will be closely
monitoring the progress of the monarch over the coming years. We
underline the importance of developing a continental perspective to
better identify the factors threatening monarchs all along their
migration path in order to better protect them.
Meanwhile, we can all take concrete action to help monarch butterflies
in the way we garden and use technology.
How can you give butterflies a helping hand?
Here are just two simple ways you can contribute to maintaining the
1) Create a monarch oasis in your garden or on your balcony. You will help the monarchs reproduce and stock up on energy for their fall migration. http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/monarch-oasis 2) Share your observations of monarchs on eButterfly.ca. The data accumulated will help researchers' better document the impact of climate change on the number and distribution of butterflies. e-Butterfly.org
Keep your eyes peeled–the few butterflies observed along the way are
expected to arrive in Québec soon!
Maxim Larrivée, head of entomological collections and research at the
Montréal Insectarium / Space for Life and expert on climate change and
butterflies, is available for interviews.
SOURCE Espace pour la vie