Are Monarch butterflies headed for extinction?


Monarch butterflies have always been a personal favorite, those remarkable orange-winged critters whose presence always brightens a day.

As we wrote last year:

When we first arrived in California in 1967, one of the first mysteries we encountered was attached to a Monarch butterfly, one of those magnificently garbed creatures we had first found so fascinating as a child years earlier.

The mystery was a small paper wheel imprinted with a serial number and a phone number we were to call if we chanced upon the little critter.

Aha! A story! we thought — and we were right.

The phone number connected us to a Canadian university, where entomologists were studying the migrational patterns of creature that managed to navigate its way from the plains of our neighbor to the north to a forest in the heartland of our neighbor to the south — a remarkably odyssey worthy of a Greek bard.

But now, we learn, those delightful creatures may soon vanish from the earth.

From The Ecologist:

It’s been another disastrous year for North America’s Monarch butterflies, with the insect’s population down 27% in a single year. The sudden decline is blamed on severe winter storms in Mexico, and the impacts of GMO crops, herbicides and insecticides on US farms.

The annual overwintering count of monarch butterflies confirms. . .that this year’s population is down by 27% from last year’s count, and down by more than 80% from the mid-1990s. This dramatic decline indicates that America’s most well-known butterfly is at ongoing risk of extinction.

This year’s drastic decline is attributed in part to extreme winter storms that killed millions of monarchs last March in Mexico’s mountain forests where 99% of the world’s monarchs migrate for the winter.

“The monarch butterfly is still in really big trouble and still needs really big help if we are going to save this beloved orange and black wonder for future generations”, said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

A recent study by the US Geological Survey concluded that there is a substantial probability that monarch butterflies east of the Rockies could decline to such low levels that they face extinction. Researchers estimate the probability that the monarch migration could collapse within the next 20 years is between 11% and 57%.

And if you think the Endangered SPecies Act will help save this or any onther critter, think again.

There’s now a major move afoot by Congressional Republicans to either gut the law or abolish it altogether.

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