Thursday, April 04, 2019

Good monarch news

As somebody who has dedicated considerable space in this blog sounding the alarm on behalf of the State Insect of Texas (see here, here, here and here), I'm pleased to report that the monarch butterfly population appears to be on the rebound:
After an upward trend in monarch butterfly populations, Texas experts are expecting a massive surge in the flying insects through Texas this season. 
This year is different, according to Craig Wilson, director of the USDA Future Scientists Program and Texas A&M research associate. This year, there has been a 144 percent increase in breeding population among monarchs compared to previous years. 
That means there are nearly 300 million butterflies in northern Mexico that make will make the annual journey north during this summer, according to Texas A&M Today. For several years, the number of butterflies breeding had been on the decline, Wilson said. 
"Figures show the highest number of hectares covered since at least 2006," Wilson said, adding that monarchs' numbers are measured in hectares. "That's a really positive sign, especially since their numbers have been down in recent years."
The yearly overwintering area graph produced by Monarch Watch shows this dramatic improvement:
Before butterfly lovers celebrate too much, it should be recognized that one good year does not guarantee that monarch populations will remain stable long-term, and that our fluttery orange and black friend still faces threats:
While the population that winters in Mexico saw an increase last year, another population that migrates to California almost vanished. 
One good year for the Midwestern migratory monarchs also doesn't mean the factors that contributed to their decline — like habitat destruction — have improved. 
"We have to face the facts that climate is changing," says Taylor. "This whole migration is in jeopardy given the loss of milkweed and the fact that climate is changing in an unfavorable way to sustain this population."
I've said it before and I'll say it again: plant that milkweed, folks. (And be sure to use native varieties, as non-native varieties could become harmful to the monarch butterfly population.)

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