August 26, 2013
Conservationists Concerned About Declining Monarch Butterfly Population
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Experts are concerned that monarch butterflies, famous for their nearly 3,000 mile migration to Mexico and coastal California during the late summer/early fall months, could be drastically decreasing in numbers.
According to James A. Foley of Nature World News, conservation groups are reporting that the number of monarch butterflies in the Mexican forests where they hibernate over the winter were at their lowest point in two decades.
The population decline is being blamed on illegal logging, changing climate patterns, and the disappearance of the milkweed plants that are essential for the survival of the species, Foley said. While milkweed is often removed in cities and towns in favor of more attractive plants, it is the only plant upon which adult monarch will lay their eggs, and it is also used as food by their caterpillars, he added.
“The alarm over disappearing monarchs intensified this spring when conservation organizations reported that the amount of Mexican forest the butterflies occupied was at its lowest in 20 years,” explained Michael Risinit of The (Westchester County, NY) Journal News.
A team of researchers, including experts from the World Wildlife Fund and Mexico's National Commission of Protected Areas found nine hibernating colonies occupied nearly three acres during the winter of 2012-13 – a 59 percent decrease from the previous winter. Nearly 20 years ago, the colonies covered approximately 45 acres, he added.
While the butterflies cannot be individually counted, a couple of acres can be home to millions of the insects. Travis Brady, education director at the Greenburgh Nature Center, told Risinit that the monarch population was “pretty strong” but “not as strong as it used to be.”
Jeffrey Glassberg, president of the North American Butterfly Association, told Risinit that there is no immediate concern that the monarch butterfly will become extinct – but there is a question as to whether or not the annual migration would continue to be sustainable.
Likewise, Foley reports that Marianna T. Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center in Texas, said that the population decline is not necessarily cause for panic. However, in order to make sure that the species remains healthy, she is calling for conservation efforts, telling reporters that “the disappearance of milkweed nationwide needs to be addressed.”