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. When the sun begins to warm up the forest, they start to flit about, often dropping momentarily to the ground. (I’m not kidding; it really feels like it’s raining butterflies! Here’s video proof.)
The visit was truly mind-blowing — the longest insect migration on Earth by colourful critters weighing less than a paperclip, meandering across a continent before landing in small patches of alpine forest they’ve never been to. (It was their great-great-great grandparents that left the reserves last year.)
Today, representatives from the government of Mexico announced that monarch butterfly populations had dropped by 27 per cent compared to last year. This isn’t entirely surprising, as a tragic storm wiped out more than six million butterflies mere days before they departed from Mexico on their 5,500-kilometre, multi-generational journey.
However, this represents a more than 80 per cent drop in the population in the past twenty years. Severe storms and the virtual eradication of milkweed by prolifigate use of an herbicide called glyphosate, which has virtually eradicated monarch’s host plant milkweed from much of the species’ breeding grounds, and illegal logging in Mexico has created a perfect storm of extinction, leading scientists to speculate that the species may be at risk of extinction.
Total bummer, right? Well, thankfully, there are a bunch of things you can do to help.
First, I encourage you to find out more about amazing local groups like Alternare that have been working on the ground in the communities around the reserves in Mexico for decades — and could really use your support!
If you live in Canada, be sure to watch for the announcement next week about our new Butterflyway Project. We’re aiming to help bring butterflies home to cities across the country, starting in five cities in 2017.
For actions you can do in your neighbourhood, sure to sign up for our Monarch Manifesto to join more than 10,000 others that have committed to helping monarchs and other critters in their communities.
Reference: David Suzuki Foundation