The monarch butterfly is a species in peril and it has been for years. The butterfly, which winters in Mexico, has experienced a decline of 27% just over the past year. This reverses last year’s good news of population increase.
There are a few running theories on why it is that the butterfly’s numbers have taken such a hit. A few late-winter storms blew down about 100 acres of forests where the monarchs spend their winters.
Millions of the butterfly migrate the 3,400 miles from Canada and the U.S. each year and tightly cluster themselves on fir trees west of Mexico city.
“The reduction in the area of forest they occupied this year is most probably due to the high mortality caused by storms and cold weather last year,” said Omar Vidal, the head of the Mexico office of the World Wildlife Fund.
“It is a clear reminder for the three countries that they must step up actions to protect breeding, feeding and migratory habitat.”
The storms are estimated to have killed more than 6 million butterflies, or almost 8% of the total population. Because of this, there will be far fewer returning north in the spring to breed.
Habitat loss by illegal logging is one of the greatest threats to the butterfly. Mexico is working vigorously to bring this logging of trees to an end, but up north, there are things we can do to help the butterflies survive.
If you live pretty much anywhere in the United States or Southern Canada (with the exception of British Columbia), you can help monarchs rebuild their numbers by planting milkweed in your gardens.
The monarch caterpillar eats exclusively milkweed leaves, so making sure their food is abundant is an excellent step we can all take to making sure their numbers are replenished.