One of the hottest winters in history poses good news and bad news for migrating Monarch butterflies this season. The good news: warm weather and well-timed rains translate into a grand wildflower season with plenty of milkweed in South Texas.
The bad news: those same high temperatures in Mexico where the Monarchs overwinter mean that many butterflies have burned up much of their stored winter fats, creating a lack of fuel and extra stress for their journey north.
For more than a decade, Margaret McRae has raised monarch butterflies in her east-end Toronto home. Every two years she applies for permission from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, then scans the milkweed that grows plentifully in her gardens.
When she finds a leaf bearing an egg, she brings it inside to protect it from parasites. Within four days, she has a monarch caterpillar, covered in white, black, and yellow stripes.
Iowa is taking a big step to help the recovery of monarch butterflies. The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium on Feb. 27 released a statewide strategy to support monarch butterfly populations in Iowa and North America.
This insect is an important pollinator of plants and crops. The 135-page plan can help farmers, backyard gardeners and others with a road map for boosting monarch butterfly habitat.
The number of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico dropped by 27 percent this year, reversing last year’s recovery from historically low numbers, according to a study by government and independent experts released Thursday.
The experts say the decline could be due to late winter storms last year that blew down more than 100 acres (40 hectares) of forests where migrating monarch butterflies spend the winter in central Mexico.
A couple of weeks ago, it was raining monarch butterflies. I was visiting a hilltop sanctuary near Mexico City where monarchs from Canada and the U.S. Midwest spend their winters.
The tiny critters cling to branches in clusters so dense they bend the bows of massive fir trees.
The branches sagged from the weight of butterflies. Thousands upon thousands of them — orange, black, and white — carpeted the trees around us, and the sound of their fluttering wings echoed through the still forest.
My three kids were mesmerized. Over Christmas holidays, in early January, we hiked the mountains of central Mexico with Omar Vidal, CEO of the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico, to see the famous monarch butterflies.
As most everyone interested in sustainability knows by now, the concept has been appropriated by numerous entities and used in various ways, often to achieve different objectives.
In his introductory chapter to the excellent 2013 edition of the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World report, Robert Engelman coined the term “sustainababble” to reflect this “cacophonous profusion of uses of the word sustainable to mean anything from environmentally better to cool.”
A survey of monarch butterflies overwintering in California shows that the population has not rebounded. Although the total number of monarchs counted this year was greater than last, the difference is due to a large increase in volunteer effort. Counts at major sites were down when compared to recent years.
Volunteers with the Xerces Society’s Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count visited 253 sites and tallied a total of 298,464 monarchs—a fraction of the 1.2 million monarchs recorded in the late 1990s.