Migrating Monarch Endangered
Why do we see monarch butterflies so rarely these days? It isn’t because they’ve decided to stay in one place. They still migrate, but their numbers are down – way down. In the past twenty years, the population of monarchs has declined by 80% due to loss of habitat.
Monarchs are facing the same challenges as bees, although in the case of bee decline there are multiple factors converging to kill colonies. Both monarch butterflies and honeybees survive by eating milkweed plants, as well as wildflowers. Milkweed used to thrive and proliferate throughout the Midwestern U.S., but herbicide use has sharply curtailed its territory. Large-scale argriculture seems to not only have endangered the traditional family farm, but also a variety of beneficial insects.
Monarchs are well known to most of us because they are – or were – such a common butterfly. Large, and painted in stained glass like orange and black, they are known also as impressive migrators, covering thousands of miles in one season. These butterflies fly from Mexico to Vermont, but without milkweed it takes many more generations to reach their destination. Butterflies that used to reach Vermont in one generation now die along the way, and it is their grandchildren who make it all the way north and east.